Last week, Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office announced that there had been a 360 percent increase in the amount of texting-while-driving tickets issued in the state of New York in the previous 12 months. That means 21,000 such tickets were handed out in the past year.
The increase was due to a change in the law that allowed police greater freedom to pull over and cite drivers for using their phones while behind the wheel. This development brings up the question of whether all of those tickets are having an effect on the amount of money New Yorkers pay for auto insurance. And it looks like they are, at least in some cases.
How to Tell if a Texting Ticket Will Impact Premiums
Whether texting-while-driving tickets have an impact on violators’ insurance premiums will depend on two main factors: state law and their insurer’s rating practices.
State law matters because in some states texting-while-driving tickets don’t actually show up on your driving record. Like a parking violation, you simply get ticketed for it and then are required to pay a fine. Insurers will likely never find out about it in states with these regulations. In some, like Idaho, there are sections of the law stating specifically that such violations will not impact premiums. But in other states, texting while driving is treated the same way as if you blow through a stop sign or get caught speeding—which is to say that you will end up with a couple of violation points on your record.
If you live in a state where texting violations do mean you’re going to get a couple points added to your record, the determining factor will be how serious your insurer considers the offense to be. Car insurance companies generally rely on their own claims data to determine whether and by how much a certain factor should influence their customers’ premiums. So any price hikes are likely to be a reflection of internal claims data, not general accident statistics. If they see that people who have texting-while-driving tickets tend to file more claims than people who don’t, texters’ auto insurance quotes are likely to be larger.
The Situation in New York
Unfortunately for New York texters, three points will be added to their driving records when they get convicted of texting behind the wheel. It used to be just two points, but the legislation Gov. Cuomo signed into law last July bumped it up to three. It also made it so that police can now pull over a driver simply because they believe he or she is sending a text while driving. Previously, it was only a secondary offense, meaning police could ticket a driver for it only if they saw him or her committing another offense like speeding or reckless driving.
And it looks like insurance rates might be going up due to texting tickets. When I inputted my information using a friend’s Brooklyn address through the online quote form of one of the biggest auto insurers in New York—who shall remain nameless in this article—the rates that I received when I said I had gotten a texting ticket in the last 30 days were about 10 percent above the rates I received when I said I had no violations on record.
We contacted GEICO, State Farm, and Allstate about whether they raise rates on drivers with texting violations, but none gave a straight yes or no answer. The closest we got was our response from State Farm spokeswoman Arlene Lester:
“While I cannot respond on this issue industry-wide, generally speaking I can tell you that a ticket for texting while driving is considered a moving violation,” Lester said in an email. “And like some other moving violations, it could be considered when reviewing rates. There are many factors that go into rates, and each company has its own proprietary methods of calculating this rate.”
In the end, the bottom line is that, increased premiums or no, the best option is to ignore any calls or texts while you’re operating a 2-ton metal machine rolling down the road. Put the phone away while driving, and you won’t have to worry about insurance rates or costly accidents that are the result of you wanting to update your Facebook status.