Smartphone use has skyrocketed — and with it the number of distracted-driving fatalities. See how various groups, from state legislatures to insurance companies, are trying to save lives.
If you’re wondering, ”Do cell phone tickets affect insurance?” you’ll find out here. You’ll also find out ways to keep from becoming part of texting-while-driving’s tragic statistics.
Cars and Phones Don’t Mix
It’s hard to resist doing a quick scroll or text on your phone while you’re driving, especially if you’re sitting in traffic, or even at a stoplight. And it’s not made any easier if you have a smartphone integrated with AI, with those pop-up camera mobiles, easier typing, and longer-lasting battery.
But taking your eyes off the road for what you think is safe because it’s “just for a second” results in a multitude of dire, long-lasting consequences.
Smartphone Usage While Driving
We check our phones a lot. But did you know that it’s an average of 96 times per day? That’s what Americans do, according to new research by global tech care company Asurion.
That’s every 10 minutes. And it’s a 20 percent daily increase from just two years ago.
So it’s not a stretch to realize that obsessive checking occurs while driving. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), at any given time during daylight hours, about 481,000 drivers are using hand-held devices such as smartphones. That translates to one in five drivers. And 34 percent of drivers have admitted to texting while driving.
Smartphone Disasters While Driving
There is no upside to smartphone use while driving.
Did you know that zipping through your smartphone while driving dramatically decreases your reaction time? A study by the Transport Research Laboratory found texting while driving delays reaction times by 37 percent, compared to 13 percent while drinking to the legal limit.
According to the Distraction.gov website, “Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing, and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increases the risk of getting into a crash by three times.”
Experts say texting while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving, and therefore a leading factor in accidents. According to CrashStats data from 2015, there were 3,477 people killed and an estimated additional 391,000 injured in crashes involving distracted drivers.
Attempts to Thwart Smartphone Driving
Despite the anxiety-inducing statistics, the warning bells about phone-related driver distraction seem to be falling on deaf ears. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) estimated the number of drivers using their cellphones jumped 57 percent from 2014 to 2018.
Campaigns on Anti-Texting and Driving
So no wonder there’s plenty of concern about safety when drivers continue to use their phones while they drive. Campaigns targeting this issue have included:
- AT&T’s It Can Wait: Launched in 2010, just three years after the first iPhone came out, the campaign focuses on educating people, especially teens, about the dangers of driving while texting, asking people to take a pledge to never text and drive. The website features true stories of those living with the consequences of texting while driving.
- Project Yellow Light/Hunter Garner Scholarship: Established in 2007 by Julie, Lowell, and Alex Garner in memory of their son/brother who was killed in a car crash, this annual competition invites high school and college applicants to create a video, billboard design, or radio public service announcement to encourage their friends to avoid distracted driving, specifically texting while driving. The competition partners with the NHTSA and the Ad Council, as well as Mazda Motorsports and U-Haul.
- Stop the Texts Stop the Wrecks: In 2011, the NHTSA and Ad Council also partnered with a San Francisco ad agency to launch PSAs humorously depicting the daily life of a man who makes blunders throughout the day because he just can’t put down his phone–until he gets behind the wheel and responsibly puts its aside.
Legislative Moves Against Cellphones and Driving
Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban back in 2007. That ban has now spread to 48 states, Washington, D.C. Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Drivers aren’t allowed to use hand-held cell phones while driving in 22 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. This is considered a primary enforcement law, so an officer can cite a driver for using a hand-held cellphone without any other traffic offense taking place.
As for laws concerning all cellphone use, no state bans all cellphone use for all drivers, but 37 states and the District of Columbia ban all cell phone use by novice drivers. Also, 23 states and the District prohibit all cellphone use for school bus drivers.
Penalties for using your cellphone while driving vary from state to state. At the lightest, you can expect a fine if you’re caught sending a text while driving. For example, if you get ticketed in New York, the first-time fine is anywhere from $50 to $200. Additional times, and the fine increases.
Also note that since texting while driving is considered a moving traffic violation, it may be a criminal misdemeanor in certain jurisdictions. For example, in Utah, in addition to being fined as much as $750 for your first offense, you also get 50 points tacked on to your driver’s license–and in that state, 200 points in three years equals license suspension.
Insurance Company Penalties for Texting and Driving
Since your driving history plays a major part in determining your car insurance premium, a ticket for texting while driving will raise your rate when you renew or go with a new carrier.
And it will stay high as long as that ticket is part of your driving record. So expect to be paying for that indiscretion for three years, and sometimes up to five years.
How much more you’ll pay will depend on your insurance company and the state in which you live. But carriers have been following states in getting tougher on distracted driving. In 2011, insurance companies hiked rates by just 2 percent for those caught texting or talking on a cellphone while driving. But by 2018, they had upped the increase to 16 percent.
That’s an average amount, as at least 10 states will increase your annual rate anywhere from 25 percent to 41 percent. Now we’re talking up to $500 more you’re paying per year.
How to Stop Texting and Driving
Of course, if you’re going on a road trip and/or need to charge your phone, it’s perfectly fine to have it out and connected to your USB charger port. We don’t want you to be driving with a low battery or no battery power on your phone, especially if you have car trouble and need roadside assistance, or you’re at a rest stop and need to check in with family or check on a reservation.
But there are ways to fight the urge to check your phone, from tech to simple tricks. Since there are so many options, try them all to see which ones fit best for you.
Apps to Help Stop Texting While Driving
Improved car technology is already trying to keep you safer, so let a phone-blocking, safety-encouraging app seal the deal. There are several choices, many of which provide perks for refraining from driving and texting.
- AT&T Drive Mode
- Samsung’s In-Traffic Reply
- Sprint’s Drive First
- Verizon’s Safely Go
Another perk for quashing your smartphone use while driving is saving on your car insurance. Most of the major carriers offer usage-based insurance (UBI) based on how safely you drive. A mobile app or a plug-in device measures your driving habits, and the better you drive, the less you pay for insurance.
So check out:
- Allstate’s DriveWise
- American Family’s KnowYourDrive
- Farmer’s Signal
- Geico’s DriveEasy
- Liberty Mutual’s RightTrack
- Nationwide’s SmartRide
- Progressive’s Snapshot
- State Farm’s Drive Safe & Save
- Travelers’ IntelliDrive
- USAA’s SafePilot
How much can you save on your insurance rate? Anywhere from 5 percent to 40 percent.
Other Tips to Stop Texting While Driving
- This may sound extreme, but you could simply put your phone away. Maybe you need to go so far as to stash it in the glove box or even the trunk.
- If you’re not yet ready to part with your phone, then turn your cell on Silent Mode to silence all calls, messages, and notifications, or turn it completely off.
- If you need your phone because you’re expecting an important call or message, turn your phone on Do Not Disturb Mode to choose what numbers can ring or alert through while the rest remain silent.
- If you need to use your phone’s GPS, enter the address in your navigation app before driving.
- If you need to keep an eye on your GPS as you’re driving, buy a phone mount and position it at eye level.
- Reward yourself: When you’re stuck in traffic, resolve to pull off the road safely once you get through it and then scroll or text to your heart’s delight.
- If someone else is in the car, ask them to help you navigate, send a text, or make a call.
- If your vehicle has built-in smartphone capability, take advantage of it and wirelessly connect your cellphone to your vehicle’s communication system. You can control the system using voice commands. Studies have shown drivers take shorter glances off the road when they’re using voice commands rather than their hands.
So until there are mass-produced, fully autonomous vehicles, we hope we’ve convinced you and helped you to be a smart driver and keep off of your phone when you’re behind the wheel. Please keep yourself and others safe, and keep out of trouble with the law and your car insurance company.
Karen Condor is an insurance expert who writes and researches for the car insurance comparison site, CarInsuranceComparison.com.