Texting behind the wheel is dangerous, and is illegal in 47 states, yet nearly half of drivers (46 percent) surveyed by Insure.com admit to texting and driving. Of those, 43 percent have texted while driving with children in the car, 20 percent have gotten a texting ticket and five percent have had an accident as a result. If you’ve been convicted of texting and driving, here you’ll learn how the consequences play out regarding your auto insurance.
Texting ticket increases by car insurance company
While there are many variables that influence exactly how much your particular rate goes up after a texting ticket, Insure.com found that the average driver will see the following increases after a texting-and-driving violation.
|Company||Average rate||Rater after texting||% increase||$ increase|
How insurance companies treat texting tickets
When it comes to distracted driving, texting is often treated differently than talking on the phone. In many states, talking behind the wheel is not illegal,l so it doesn’t result in a ticket or have any impact on your insurance.
Texting behind the wheel is different in the majority of states and will usually result in a ticket ,and may eventually impact your insurance premium, especially if it puts points on your license. In some cases, the penalties can be fairly severe. In Alaska at one point in time it was a misdemeanor to text while driving. It came with a $10,000 fine and a year in jail. Fortunately, that fine has been adjusted in recent years and now tops out at $500.
While Alaska took it to the extreme, there are still some hefty penalties out there. Colorado will ding you $300 and put four points on your license. Oregon’s fines run up to $1,000 for a first offense and go to $2,500 if you are caught again. New York will send you a bill for $200 and adds five points to your license.
On the other end of that spectrum are states like Florida where the fee for texting is a measly $30 and no points on your license. Wisconsin is even lower with a fee of $20. On average though, expect to spend between $50 and $250 on a texting ticket.
In a similar vein, insurance companies often treat texting tickets in different ways and there is no way to know exactly how your insurer will react.
“There is a lot of variation regarding how insurers handle texting tickets. This is in part due to variations in state laws. Some, but not all states include texting tickets on a driver’s motor vehicle record. In states where texting tickets are not part of an MVR, they will not have any effect on insurance. In states that include them, each insurer will make the decision regarding how to treat them based on their experience,” explains Jeffrey Brewer, Vice President of Public Affairs at Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.
Some insurers tend to overlook a texting ticket while others will increase your rates (surcharge for it). “We are still in the early days of people getting tickets for texting. As a result, some companies may simply track the tickets, so they can look at the loss data and then based on the data decide how to handle them. On the other hand when texting tickets show up on an MVR many insurers treat them as minor moving violation,” says Brewer.
The surcharge can vary but in most cases it is treated like a minor speeding ticket, which usually results in a small rate increase. It is also possible that you will lose your safe driver discount, which will result in a premium increase
Texting ticket insurance increases by state
While it will vary by a variety of factors, on average, insurance rates go up roughly 23 percent after a texting ticket. Increases ranged from 12 percent on the low end, up to a 45 percent increase, based on a survey done by Insure.com of six insurance carriers in 10 ZIP codes in every state.
California leads the nation with a 45 percent increase after a texting ticket, while Ohio placed a distant second with a 34 percent jump. The increase in premiums varies dramatically across states but if you do end up with a texting ticket on your record don’t start panicking immediately, it may not impact your rates at all.
“Because states charge a fee for every motor vehicle record (MVR) pulled, many insurance carriers don’t pull MVRs every year. The fees can range from the $1.60 to over $13.00 per driver, which quickly adds up for insurance companies with thousands of policyholders,” says John Espenschied with Insurance Brokers Group.
If your insurer doesn’t pull an MVR on a regular basis it will never know about your texting ticket, and your rates will stay the same. In a few states it’s actually illegal for car insurance companies to bump up your rate for a texting ticket. In Idaho and North Carolina, state law prohibits insurers from raising rates based on texting violations.
In states where points are assigned to your license you may find your license suspended if a texting citation puts you over the top. In New York for example, a texting ticket puts five points on your license and if you hit 11points in an 18-month period you can say bye-bye to your license for a bit which will absolutely raise your insurance premium.
How long will a texting ticket stay on my record?
How long it stays on your driving record can vary by state but in general, expect it to impact your driver’s license and insurance rates for three to five years. In most cases, your insurer will discover the ticket at renewal time (if they pull your record) and if they surcharge for texting tickets (not all insurers do) your rates will be headed up.
Fortunately, there are a few things you can do to drive your premium down even with a texting ticket on your record. Here are just a few tips:
Shop your coverage: This is the best way to lower your insurance costs in most situations. Insurers rate risk differently, so premium quotes can vary dramatically between insurance companies. Always make sure you are comparing apples to apples when it comes to coverage levels and the deductible.
It’s never advisable to lower coverage levels to reduce your premium. While slashing your coverage levels will almost always lower your premium, you may find yourself regretting this decision if you are in a serious accident.
Defensive driving: Taking a defensive driving course can work on multiple fronts. In some states, taking one of these courses may knock a ticket off your record, which means your insurance company may never see it.
If your state doesn’t offer forgiveness, your insurer might. Some insurance companies offer a discount on your premium for completing a defensive driving course. Check with your insurance company for courses that meet their requirements.
Ask for a deferral: This one can be risky but if you keep your record clean for a year your rates may not go up. Many states allow you to defer a ticket for a year which means that it will not go on your driving record. If you stay ticket free for 12 months the ticket never hits your driving record and your insurer is never the wiser.
However, if you do get a ticket during that year, both of them hit your driving record and your rates will absolutely be headed up. Contact your local clerk of court to see if deferral is an option in your area.
Texting dangers by the numbers, state laws
Here are a few statistics put together by the National Safety Council and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year
- 390,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving
- 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving
- Texting while driving is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk
- Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field
Texting while driving is extremely dangerous, which is why it’s illegal in almost every state in the country.
Currently, it is illegal to drive while texting in 47 states plus Washington D.C. In most of these states, texting while driving is a primary law, which means that you can be pulled over for just texting and driving. In a few states, it is still a secondary law meaning you must be pulled over for another violation before a texting ticket can be issued.
Rate data — Insure.com commissioned Quadrant Information Services to field rates from up to six major insurers in 10 ZIP codes in every state for a driver of a 2017 Honda Accord, age 40, with good credit and full coverage and $500 deductible; increases shown are an average from the base rate.
Survey — Insure.com in May 2018 commissioned Op4g to field a survey of 1,000 drivers with children to find out about their driving behavior.