Texting and Driving and Car Insurance! Oh My!

How your rates could be affected by a ticket for texting and driving

iphone car

That texting and driving is dangerous isn’t news to anyone—the dangers of distracted driving are well documented, and texting is one of the most egregious forms. Almost every state in the union has taken action to make texting while driving illegal, and PSAs about the dangers abound. At Quoted, we’ve discussed which traffic violations can cause insurance premiums to rise, and with anti-driving and texting legislation growing, getting a ticket for texting while driving might soon be the straightest line to a higher premium.

Texting Laws, State by State

States, of course, legislate their own traffic laws, so texting rules vary (often quite widely) depending on where you live. So far, 46 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands have outlawed texting while driving completely, for all drivers. Two of the four holdouts ban texting for young drivers (under 18 for Texas, and under 21 for Missouri). And not (necessarily) relevant to your insurance premium, but perhaps for your state of mind: every state but Montana outlaws texting while driving for school bus drivers.

It should also be noted that while a state might not ban texting outright (Texas, for example), many cities within these states have enacted their own rules (Austin and San Antonio, for example, have now banned all hand-held cell phone usage).

welcome to maine road sign
The penalties for texting and driving can vary in each state.

The Penalties for Texting, State by State

Often the biggest fear when getting a ticket isn’t the ticket itself, but the aftermath: points on your license, or even worse (financially, at least), an increase in your car insurance premium. As we’ve previously discussed, your insurance won’t automatically increase after a ticket. In fact, just 19 percent of drivers will see a rate hike after a ticket. Also, different types of tickets have different effects on insurance rates: while running a red light might only increase your premium by about 20 percent, a reckless driving infraction could cause your premium to rise by as much as 82 percent.

Even though most states have now outlawed texting and driving, the offense carries different weight in different places. In some states (like Virginia), texting while driving is considered reckless driving—a very serious violation—while six others (California, Delaware, Iowa, Louisiana, Pennsylvania, and Tennessee) don’t even assign points for texting and driving. It stands to reason that insurance customers living in states that assign higher penalties to texting and driving will be more likely to see rate increases after such violations.

In Alaska, texting while driving is a misdemeanor that can result in a $10k fine & a year in jail.

In a handful of states, insurers aren’t legally permitted to consider texting and driving violations when calculating a customer’s premium:

  • Idaho
  • Massachusetts
  • North Carolina
  • Washington

But if we were the betting types, we’d say that’ll soon change.

person texting in car
Leave the texting to your passengers.

The Future of Texting While Driving

The dangers of texting while driving are incredibly well documented: most articles on the subject point out that looking down at your phone for just five seconds while traveling a modest 55 mph will mean you’ve essentially traveled the length of a football field blindfolded. Driving safety researchers say the longest a driver can safely look away from the road is 2 seconds. It’s quite likely, in our opinion, that texting and driving will soon be completely outlawed in the entire country (as well it should), and penalties will become more and more severe. Perhaps soon Alaska (currently the toughest on texting and driving) won’t be such an outlier: the state now classifies texting while driving as a misdemeanor with a maximum fine of $10,000 and one year in jail for the first offense.