Insurers Raise Distracted Driving Penalties 10,000%

WRITTEN BY: Julia Matseikovich


As drivers in America, we have all heard of driving under the influence (DUI) and know that the penalty is extremely high. But did you know that distracted driving (DD) is the reason for 25-50 percent of all accidents in the United States?

On average, 3000 people die yearly in auto accidents due to distracted drivers, and 424,000 are injured. Insurance companies are raising insurance rates tremendously for distracted driving penalties.

What is distracted driving?

According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving is anything that can take away your attention from driving a motor vehicle. While driving, do you talk on your phone, text, quickly check social media, eat, or surf the stereo?

Texting is the distraction that causes the most accidents. Sending or reading a text message takes your eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds. If you’re driving at 55 mph, you will go the length of an entire football field without seeing what’s ahead of you.

Talking on phones

Most smartphones these days can be used hands-free. Most vehicles have a Bluetooth connection where you can speak and listen to phone calls through the speaker system. While this is still considered distracted driving, it’s safer than using a hand-held device while driving.

Texting while driving

If you’re texting while driving, your chances of being in an accident are six times higher than if you’re driving while intoxicated. Studies have shown that older teens have the most accidents due to texting and searching the web on their cell phones. Fatal car accidents are the leading cause of death in teens as they’re the highest number of drivers who forgo wearing a seatbelt.

Auto Insurance Rates And Distracted Driving

If you receive a driving violation for distracted driving, you will probably see an increase in your auto insurance premiums. If you have an accident and receive a driving violation for distracted driving, you can certainly see an increase. Your driving behaviors impact auto premium increases more than any other factor.

Forty-eight states prohibit using hand-held devices while driving, as studies have proven that you’re not safe while distracted by cell phone use. With the heavy use of smartphones, distracted drivers are multiplying rapidly. The NHTSA reported that 9% of fatal crashes were due to distracted driving in 2019.

Also, in 2019, 3,142 people were killed in crashes involving distracted drivers. The increase in accidents means more auto insurance claims which in turn means higher premiums. Across the nation, auto insurance premiums have increased by 16% since 2011 due to the increase in distracted driving claims.

Rate increases

Depending on your state, the insurance penalties on your car insurance rates for distracted driving will vary. Currently, insurance providers in Vermont will increase your auto insurance premiums by 56%, but California will only increase your auto insurance premiums by 5%.

The states that have implemented the highest rate increases are Vermont, Montana, and Oregon, which are all over 30%. The states with the lowest rate increases are New York, Wyoming, and Hawaii, under 10%.

Distracted driving violation fines

The traffic violation fee for the first offense of breaking the distracted driving laws can be up to $500. You will also be penalized with points on your driver’s license, affecting your driving record and auto insurance premiums for several years.

School bus accidents

Between 2011-2020, 113 people were fatally injured in school bus accidents. Seventy percent of the fatalities were occupants of other vehicles involved in the crash. Many of these deaths resulted from distracted drivers running their cars into the stopped school buses.

Several were pedestrians entering or exiting the buses, as studies have shown by the NHTSA. Bus drivers are prohibited from using cell phones while driving buses.

How to prevent distracted driving

To drive safely, you must give your motor vehicle your full attention; anything less increases your risk of crashing. Distracted driving laws are in place to improve your driving behaviors and keep everyone safe.


According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 48 states have banned text messaging while driving. Thirty-seven states and Washington, D.C., have banned all cell phone use by beginning drivers, while 24 states prohibit all drivers from using any hand-held devices while driving.


Texas has now required all new drivers over 18 to take a course on distracted driving through the Texas Department of Public Safety. The National Safety Council offers online distracted driver courses.

Silence it or pullover

You should silence your phone while driving if you need to check it with every sound it makes. If you can’t wait until you get where you’re going to answer the phone or text message, then pull over to answer.


What does a 10,000-percent increase in distracted driving penalties mean?

Penalties for texting while driving vary between states; fines can range from $20-$10,000 for a first-time offense and, sometimes, involve jail.

If you’re texting and driving in California, the penalty for a first-time offense is $20. In New York, first-time offenders pay between $50-$200 and acquire an additional fee of $93. If a second offense occurs within 18 months, fines may be as high as $250. Penalties for third-time offenses may be as high as $450.

However, in Alaska, texting while driving is a misdemeanor, but they have the highest penalties in the nation for this moving violation. Fines can reach $10,000 with a year in prison for a first-time offense. Fines can rise to $50,000 with a five-year prison sentence if someone is injured. If someone is killed in the accident, penalties can increase to $10,000 with a ten-year prison sentence.

What is the new penalty imposed by insurance companies on distracted drivers?

Depending on your state, the insurance penalties on your car insurance rates for distracted driving will vary. Currently, insurance providers in Vermont will increase your auto insurance premiums by 56%, but California will only increase your auto insurance premiums by 5%.

What is the penalty for distracted driving?

The penalty for distracted driving varies between a 5% and a 56% increase in your auto insurance premium. You will also lose any safe driver discounts that you may have on your auto insurance policy.

Why did the auto insurance companies increase the penalty for distracted driving?

Because 8% of all auto accidents result from distracted driving, around 85% of Americans own cell phones and will use them while driving.

What is the penalty for driving while distracted by a device?

You can receive a moving vehicle driving violation, points on your driver’s license, and increased auto insurance premiums depending on your state’s driving laws, to name a few.

What does “distracted driving” mean?

Distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from the road while operating a motor vehicle.

Protect Yourself From a Distracted Driver

Try your best always to avoid distractions. With the increase in drivers and smartphones in the United States, the risk of encountering a distracted driver is relatively high. Do your part, pay attention, put down your cell phone and be an alert driver. Also, get adequate auto insurance coverage to protect you, your passengers, and your vehicle.