How Texting and Driving Pushes Insurance Rates Up

Texting and Driving
•••  Getty Images/ David Hogsholt 

You probably know that if you cause an accident because of risky behavior, your car insurance rates will almost certainly go up. But did you know that the bad behavior of other drivers can have an impact, too?

Unfortunately, more and more people are making the dangerous decision to text and drive, which causes 1.6 million crashes and almost 400,000 injuries per year, according to The National Safety Council—that’s one out of every four car accidents!

Because of this, car accident rates have risen over 14 percent since 2014. Not only does this make driving more dangerous for everyone, but it also contributes to increased car insurance premiums for everyone.

The chart below illustrates the number of car crashes that occurred between 2013–2017, as well as the number of those that were a direct result of distracted driving, and then those which were cell phone related.

How and Why Do Texting and Driving Impact My Car Insurance Rates?

If you personally text and drive, I have one word of advice: stop. It’s incredibly dangerous, and more and more insurance companies are starting to track cell phone use for the drivers they insure. Allstate, for example, uses a technology called Arity to track whether or not drivers are using their phones while driving. After analyzing 160 million trips, they found that drivers who used their phones en route were, in fact, more dangerous on the road. Another company, Boston-based TrueMotion, found that the 18,000 drivers it analyzed spent 20 percent of every drive using their phone—including scrolling through social media!

If you do not personally text and drive, you may be breathing a sigh of relief. But unfortunately, you might still be impacted.

If I Do Not Personally Text and Drive, Will My Rates Be Unaffected?

Car insurance premiums are determined by many different factors, including the neighborhood you live in, your age, the length of your commute, your driving history, and the behavior of other drivers. This last category is why texting and driving impacts everyone. Because so many people do it, car insurance companies have been raising their rates.

How Much Should I Expect My Car Insurance Premiums to Rise?

It depends on what state you live in. Nationwide, insurance premiums have risen by more than 20 percent since 2011, and distracted driving is mostly to blame. In North Carolina last year, drivers saw their first insurance premium hike since 2009, and it was a big one, averaging nearly 14 percent. South Carolina likewise experienced a rate increase of nearly 9 percent in 2016. “We are seeing an increase in accident frequency,” Russ Dubisky, executive director of the South Carolina Insurance Association, told The State. “And we are seeing more serious injuries.” In Massachusetts, car insurance premiums rose in 2017 by as much as 10 percent, largely due to distracted driving: “I would characterize distracted driving as a big factor,” Massachusetts Division of Insurance spokesman Chris Goetcheus told the Boston Globe. “It is resulting in more accidents out on the road.”

If you are a teen or young driver, you’re likely to see a bigger increase as well. But it is far from just teens that are guilty of distracted driving: according to State Farm, nearly 40 percent of drivers admit to texting and driving.

Is Texting the Only Reason Insurance Premiums Are Rising?

There are many factors that insurance companies take into consideration when setting premiums, and while distracted driving is a large factor, it’s not the only factor. When gas prices are low and the economy is booming, more people can afford to drive, and the roads become more congested, leading to more accidents. As vehicles become less mechanical and more computer-centric, the average cost of repairs is increasing, making the average insurance payout much higher.

How Can I Avoid Paying More for Car Insurance?

One of the most surprising things you can do? Raise your credit score. If your credit score is below 580, you are likely to pay $1,400 more in car insurance premiums than someone with a score above $800—and that’s a lot of money!

Many insurance companies are starting to offer technology that tracks your driving behavior, and often may offer you a discount if the tech shows you are not distracted while driving. There are several smartphone apps, including the aforementioned TrueMotion, along with many other upcoming car insurance technologies. Another one, Truce Software, (formerly known as CellControl), helps by preventing you from using your phone at all while you’re driving.