Small consolation – declining real terms of trade helping insurers.

Progressive Gains as Record Gasoline Curbs Driving

by Erik Holm

Americans are driving less for the first time since 1980, data compiled by the Federal Highway Administration show. The rate of accidents per insured vehicle fell 0.5 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier after increasing in 2007, according to Insurance Services Office Inc. in Jersey City, New Jersey.

“We may be at a very special point where things have changed dramatically,” Progressive Chief Executive Officer Glenn Renwick said at an investor meeting last month.

Americans drove about 20 billion fewer miles during the first four months of 2008, down 2.1 percent from a year earlier, according to the Federal Highway Administration in Washington. Progressive of Mayfield Village, Ohio, was the top performer on the 24-member KBW Insurance Index during the three months through yesterday, gaining 21 percent.

The number of drivers probably fell again in May when gas prices approached $4 a gallon, said Meyer Shields, a Baltimore- based analyst at Stifel Nicolaus & Co.

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