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Distracted Drivers – How Insurance Rates Increase

Distracted Drivers

As smart phones become smarter, drivers have a harder time keeping their hands off of their phones while driving. With every convenience and entertainment option at your fingertips, many drivers find it difficult to focus solely on the road while driving. Even with a  changing auto industry with smarter and driverless cars, car accidents are increasing across the United States. Some believe cell phone usage contributed to this increase. As drivers become more dangerous daily, insurance companies  increase their rates to keep up with the increasing number of accidents.

Distracted Drivers

Smart phones seem to lead to more distracted drivers. A survey conducted by a major insurance company revealed that 36% of people surveyed admitted that they texted behind the wheel and 29% admitted to browsing the internet while driving. Not surprisingly, a majority of these drivers who admitted to this behavior were between 18 and 29. Unfortunately, these least experienced drivers become susceptible to accidents as road conditions frequently change. Accidents easily happen in the blink of an eye. Additionally, the amount of people who own a smartphone has increased over the years, which means more distracted drivers on the road. As the chief executive of one major insurance company calls this an epidemic issue for the country.

Distracted Driving Increasing Insurance Rates

Distracted driving is not anything new. Insurance companies have dealt with distractions before. However, as smartphone technology increased, the problem worsened. One insurer expects to raise their insurance rates by 8% this year. In 2016, the increase was 6.5% increases.  Additionally, the average insurance rate across the country has increased by 16% since 2011. The average cost is up to $926 a year. Previously, many predicted that the rates would fall with the addition of many safety features such as anti-collision gear.  Lastly, the low prices of gas increases the number of drivers on the roads, which leads to more accidents.

Most Do Not Text and Drive

Although surveys state over 1/3 text and drive, recent government studies disagree. Researchers found that only 2.2% of their surveyed population texted while driving. In 2006, the survey stated .4%. However, insurance companies claim that this study does not fully capture the number of people who text or use their phone.  These studies done by the government relied on police reports and observations. Not surprisingly, some people may not admit to using a phone behind the wheel.  Moreover, car insurers investigate crashes to find out how it happened. So, they can stay on top of trends and may have more accurate statistics.

How Illinois Bans Distracted Driving

Illinois passed a law in 2013 that banned drivers from using cell phones in Illinois while driving. Drivers can only use cell phones if the driver is using hands-free technology. Otherwise, they need to pay a fine. Additionally, Illinois has a law that specifically bans texting while driving.

Safe Driving Tips for Cell Phone Users

An accident could happen at any moment even if cars are becoming more accident resistant. For that reason, drivers should leave their cell phones in their glove box or in an area where it cannot be reached. This will allow drivers to avoid the temptation of wanting to check email or surf the web while driving. Additionally, more accidents behind the wheel will lead to higher insurance rates, as studies have already shown this trend occurring across the United States. The best practice is just to keep off the smartphone while driving. It may save your life or somebody else’s life.

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Ronald F. Wittmeyer, Jr. practices plaintiffs' personal injury law at his office in Arlington Heights, Illinois.

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