Drivers who text behind the wheel of their car have been warned they could face up to a 45% rise in their auto insurance rates if they are caught.
According to recent analysis, the best auto insurance providers will increase rates by an average of 23% after a texting ticket - the equivalent of a $346 hike. However, Insurance.com found that premium increases can vary significantly between states. So while drivers picking up a violation in California can expect the steepest increase in their auto insurance premium of 45% - or $776 based on the average premium charged in that state - those who are caught in New York and Louisiana will typically suffer only a 12% rise.
Auto insurer powers
Perhaps surprisingly, not all drivers busted cellphone-in-hand on the highway will be hit in the pocket. In some states - including Idaho and North Carolina - it is illegal for car insurance companies to raise rates for a texting ticket conviction. And even where auto insurers are free to act, not all will place higher premiums on guilty drivers.
“If you live in a state that treats a texting ticket as a moving violation, it’s treated by insurance companies like any other minor ticket,” says Michelle Megna, editorial director of Insurance.com. “But there’s a big difference in how individual companies handle tickets. With some, a single ticket might not affect your rates at all. Others might decide you don’t qualify for a good driver discount anymore. And some might actually raise your rates quite a bit.”
What is almost certain to guarantee a rate increase is getting caught more than once, Megna adds.
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Worse consequences of distracted driving
Of course, far more important than the potential hike in auto insurance rates that could be imposed for using a cellphone while driving is the heightened danger distracted drivers present to other motorists and pedestrians.
Despite laws aimed at combating distracted driving, cellphone use while at the wheel continues to increase. According to a 2019 study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Virginia drivers were 57% more likely to be using a cellphone while driving compared to 2014.
As well as a fine and an increase in car insurance premiums, motorists picking up a texting ticket are likely to see points added to their driving record in some states. Accumulate too many points and you could lose your license. More serious still, cause an accident, and at the least you will need to dig out the details of the best roadside assistance plans, and at the worst, jail time could be on the cards.
"The bottom line is drivers that are being distracted, discourteous or outright dangerous need to recognize this behavior and change or they are likely to end up in an accident or receiving a ticket," says Penny Gusner, senior consumer analyst for Insurance.com. "Either of those will adversely affect your car insurance rates for the next three to five years, so a long time for you to pay for your actions as a driver."