Is Amanda Bynes on the Road to High-Risk Car Insurance?


Amanda Bynes: Nickelodeon starlet, aspiring fashionista, and very bad driverLast week, we covered the insurance implications of driving under the influence when Michael Turner, a Pro Bowl running back for the Atlanta Falcons, was arrested following a Monday Night Football game.

We continue our coverage of celebs’ roadway antics with Amanda Bynes: Nickelodeon starlet, aspiring fashionista, and very bad driver.

Bynes, now 26 years old, has collected marks on her driving record that include an alleged drunk-driving incident, unpaid tickets, and multiple alleged hit-and-runs—all in the past year.

Coverage Still Possible, but Pricey

To provide insight into situations that motorists like Bynes face, we spoke to Eddie C. Martinez, State Farm spokesman for Southern California.

There is a strong likelihood of getting your policy canceled after a DUI, according to Martinez, especially if you have a spotty record in addition to the DUI. (Sorry, Mandy.)

Bynes’s driving record reads like a journal from a crash test dummy: In April, a DUI arrest and alleged hit-and-run (separate incidents), another alleged hit-and-run in August, license suspension last month, and a half-dozen tickets since March, according to media reports.

Needless to say, insurers would categorize Bynes as a high-risk motorist. But even individuals with good driving records and one DUI “still have a chance of staying insured, but just placed in a high-risk class,” Martinez said.

Those high-risk pools often charge sky-high amounts. Factoring in the often hefty fine for DUIs, which Martinez said averages $10,000 in California and is likely accompanied by a license suspension, drinking and driving can end up being a costly mistake.

“It’s not just the cost of your insurance, but the work you have to do to keep your other costs down,” Martinez said. “If somebody needs their vehicle for work, you can just imagine what a DUI and the likely license suspension will do for that person.”

No Place to Hide for Celebrity DUIers 

Like we found out last week in our coverage of NFL star Turner, DUIs that don’t involve accidents—Turner was caught speeding while drunk—can go under your insurer’s radar for a short while. Companies conduct checks of driving history, in which the presence of a DUI-related incident will eventually be uncovered, but their frequency depends on the insurer.

Martinez said that most major insurers’ checks occur at the time of policy renewal. In our story on Turner, a Georgia-based insurance broker said Progressive conducted their checks every six months.

But it’s a different story for celebrities, whose roadway flubs often grab immediate attention. In Bynes’s case, her DUI stemmed from swiping a police cruiser, a high-profile accident that would be hard for any insurer to miss.

Bad Drivers Still Have Options

But even Bynes isn’t uninsurable. According to Martinez, celebrities often turn to their cure-all problem solver: the talent agent.

“A lot of these folks will go to their agents and have their agents try to find them some substandard carriers, brokers, or some other company out there that will insure them after they’ve racked up a lot of those kinds of incidents,” said Martinez, who is based in Culver City, miles away from celebrity hangouts like Beverly Hills and Santa Monica.

Those providers typically charge exorbitant amounts that celebrities in need can undoubtedly pay.

Martinez said that some celebrities are forced to split their coverage between brokers, “covering certain liability limits with one carrier and have another pick up the rest of it.” He added that he’s only seen brokers offer that option; major car insurance companies generally refuse to divide coverage in that way.

Also, Martinez said, there is a better way to avoid the complicated mess of finding coverage when you’ve had a DUI: Don’t get one.

“I think that folks have to be responsible,” he said. “Choose a designated driver. Call a taxi. Hide your keys.”

Don’t Forget Court Dates

Bynes might have found a more novel solution to her problems: moving across the country. 

With news outlets reporting that Bynes is going to New York City to pursue a fashion career, insurance for the ingénue may not get any worse. Smart move, Mandy: way more taxis, way better public transportation, and way less need to drive.

But Bynes still should know that such incidents don’t disappear. Her next court date for the DUI charge is later this month and, whether she’s on one coast or the other, she’ll have to deal with that if she wants insurers and/or authorities to consider her a capable driver again.

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