SAN FRANCISCO (AP) _ Living by a church does wonders for a person's driving record, but motorists who reside near a restaurant might want to say an extra prayer before hitting the road, according to the findings of an insurance industry study.
The study from Quality Planning Corp., a risk assessment firm owned by the influential Insurance Services Office, calculates the risk of having a serious auto accident.
The bottom line: Drivers living within a mile of a church are the safest _ 10 percent less likely to crash than their fellow drivers, the report found.
Alternately, drivers residing within a mile of a restaurant are 30 percent more likely to be in an accident, the study found.
The study tallied the accident rates of motorists with homes near a wide variety of businesses and local landmarks. It analyzed 15 million auto insurance policies and 2 million claims.
``By and large, your risks go way up when you are living closer to busy gathering points,'' said Daniel Finnegan, Quality Planning's chief executive.
But some of the study's other conclusions seemed counterintuitive. For example, motorists living near elementary schools are in more accidents than those living near a liquor store _ 26 percent more likely versus 18 percent.
``There are usually a lot of people coming and going at schools and sometimes there are a lot of distractions, too,'' Finnegan said. ``As the father of a rambunctious child, I can tell you that's (the equivalent) of two drinks.''
Finnegan predicted insurers will draw from the findings to recalculate their prices, creating decreases for some drivers and boosting the premiums of motorists living in high-risk neighborhoods.
But the leader of a consumer watchdog group fighting for reforms to prevent home addresses from affecting auto insurance prices ridiculed the study.
``What's next? A study showing people on low-carb diets cause less accidents than pasta eaters?'' asked Doug Heller, executive director of the Foundation for Taxpayer and Consumer Rights.
The ZIP code in which a driver lives has affected auto insurance for decades. The insurance industry believes they reflect loss risks because densely populated or crime-ridden areas tend to file expensive claims. The study, however, said ZIP codes are too broad to serve as an accurate pricing gauge.
Heller agreed but described the rest of the study as absurd.
``What happens to the likelihood of getting in an accident if you live near a church that serves Saturday morning pancake breakfasts?'' he said.