We’ve known for some time the physical hazards of distracted driving, whether it’s talking on a mobile phone, text messaging, eating, changing the radio station, or even yelling at the kids in the back seat. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people were killed and 391,000 were injured in motor vehicle crashes that involved distracted drivers during 2015 alone.
Aside from having to pay a hefty fine, being ticketed for distracted driving will also drive up a motorist’s auto insurance premiums by an average 16% or about $226 a year, according to a study conducted by the car insurance search engine The Zebra. That may not sound like much of a budget-buster, but it represents a premium increase of 7,944% since 2011, when carriers issued a penalty of just 0.2% for those caught texting or talking on a cell phone while driving.
As it is, even insurance rates for good drivers are at their highest levels in history – the national average is $1,427, which means they’ve risen by 20% since 2011.
Of course, as with virtually every aspect of auto insurance, the premium penalties charged to distracted driving offenders varies – often wildly – from one state to another. The costliest state for distracted drivers is Michigan, where violators will see their annual rates shoot up by an average $681; these penalties approach the $2,000 mark in the Detroit metro area, which happens to be the costliest city in the U.S. for car insurance. At the other end of the spectrum, motorists in New York catch a (perhaps undeserved) break for being caught not paying attention to the task at hand, with a subsequent average boost of only $2.51.
“Speeding, drinking and driving, disobeying traffic signals – those violations have (unfortunately) been around since the advent of automobiles. Distracted driving is really the only new dangerous behavior to affect your driving record,” explains The Zebra’s director of market insights, Alyssa Connolly, “The insurance industry and regulators have to ensure any rate changes they make are justified, so even though cell phones aren’t new to you and me, the risks and dangers they pose for drivers have only recently been substantiated – and now distracted drivers are really seeing the effects on their premiums.”
And you can certainly bet that premium penalties charged to distracted drivers will only accelerate further and faster down the road, especially if fatalities and injuries related to the unfortunate practice continue to tick upward. As it is, some claim that driving without paying proper attention to the road can be as hazardous as piloting a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs, which warrants the steepest rate increases of any violation. Get a DUI and you could see your insurance rates skyrocket by an average of around $1,100, which is 383% more than if you’d been nailed for distracted driving. And, as always, those living in urban areas will pay more for insurance than suburbanites or rural residents, as will motorists having additional infractions and/or accidents on their records.