Corporate and Social Responsibility Project of the Year: Co-operative Insurance Services

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Co-operative Insurance Services has proven its dedication to the community through its initiative for young and inexperienced drivers. Ed Vinales discovers its determination to bring to light the dangers of driving

Young at heart

In recent years, Co-operative Insurance Services has proven through various initiatives that the role of a major insurer is not just a matter of picking up the pieces after losses occur, but it is also about preventing those losses from occurring in the first place. The insurer has worked tirelessly to position itself within the motor insurance market as a leading commentator on issues such as driving without insurance, speeding and drink driving.

However, CIS has gained most respect among the national media, the insurance industry and non-governmental organisations for its actions, rather than words, in addressing the issues that not only affect businesses bottom lines and the future level of insurance premiums but also the community at large.

With its latest initiative - 'Too Young To Die' - the insurer teamed up with Brake, the road-safety charity, to produce a road-safety education pack targeted at 600,000 students aged between 15 and 21 in 2000 schools nationwide. The pack outlines basic safe driving rules such as not speeding, not driving after drinking or taking drugs, and not driving while tired or on a mobile phone. It also gives practical advice about vehicle maintenance.

Designed as a comprehensive resource to help educators run lessons on how to stay alive on the road, the packs are introduced to schools and colleges by trained Brake volunteers. They include a 'Too Young To Die' booklet, instructions on downloading a free PowerPoint presentation on Brake's website and a video that describes in graphic detail the impact irresponsible driving has on victims, their families and emergency services that are left to deal with the consequences on a daily basis.

Heart-rending interviews

A 15-minute video features heart-rending interviews with people who have been affected by the consequences of dangerous driving, including an interview with a mother who lost her 12-year-old son, a young man who cradled his dying friend in his arms and a paramedic, whose job often includes some gruesome aspects - which most people do not realise forms a frequent part of their jobs.

In one piece of accompanying literature, a teenage girl tells the story of how she killed her boyfriend after she took over the driving because he was drunk. "I knew I shouldn't have because I'd been drinking too, but I didn't know what else to do," she said. "We should have all got out and walked, but I felt really under pressure. Then I crashed the car on a bend and hit a tree. My boyfriend wasn't wearing a seatbelt. He was thrown from the car and died on impact. His friend had multiple injuries."

CIS claims the insurance industry must start taking positive action to reduce the 3000 people killed in road-traffic accidents last year - 15% of which were between the ages of 17 to 21 - or else premiums for the young will continue to rise. If nothing is done to halt the number of young motorists killed or seriously injured on UK roads, CIS believes a whole generation could become uninsurable. The impact of serious road-traffic crashes not only affects peoples' lives, but also has a considerable effect on future premium levels. CIS believes it has a duty to prevent future losses that, in turn, will make motor insurance more affordable, especially for young, inexperienced drivers.

Long-term commitment

To date, in excess of 1000 packs have been introduced into schools. However, CIS has illustrated its long-term commitment to the project by revealing that the education process will continue, even when full distribution is reached. The insurer and its partner are committed to working together to highlight the most common causes of young driver deaths - speeding, drink or drug driving, non-use of seatbelts, use of mobile phones and driving while tired.

The project has been so successful that it has already received endorsements from print and broadcast media, as well as non-governmental organisations and the wider parliamentary audience, including the minister for road safety. Many MPs have also endorsed the project within their own constituencies.

The British Insurance Awards judges were particularly impressed with the fact that the CIS campaign tied in sensible business and financial management with genuine efforts to make a difference to young drivers. Through initiatives such as Too Young to Die, CIS has proven that it is a responsible insurer and is effectively putting something back into the community, while also addressing such sensitive issues as reckless driving, premium increases and road deaths particularly involving the young.

FINALISTS 2007
- Co-operative Insurance Services
- Friends Provident
- Prudential

WINNING WORDS

Addressing the high rates of injury and death among young drivers was a massive challenge, according to Co-operative's Kath Comerford.

In gratefully accepting the award for Corporate and Social Responsibility Project of the Year, Kath Comerford, motor underwriting manager at Co-operative Insurance Services, said: "To win an accolade such as this is a fantastic achievement. To be recognised by the insurance industry for such an important project reaffirms CIS's position as a leading 'responsible insurer'. The 'Too Young To Die' campaign is something that we, along with Brake, hope to take even further to make a real impact on reducing the number of young driver casualties."

"This award represents the impact our campaign has had on various communities, and we are extremely proud of our achievements so far."

She added: "When we were putting together the video and literature material for the campaign, we were unsure as to how full and frank we could be, as some of the stories are truly terrifying. But we were urged by many of those involved to include as many of the details of their experiences as possible to help prevent others suffering similar fates."

She concluded: "Our gratitude, thanks and thoughts go out to those people who shared these tragic episodes with us. This is not just an insurance issue, but one of fundamental importance to the nation and young drivers, and we are proud to be at the forefront of such an important campaign."

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