Does Auto Insurance Cover Distracted Driving Accidents?

Activities causing drivers to take their eyes off the road are essentially distractions. Cell phones and other gadgets grab motorists’ attention and it leads to accidents. If motorists have full coverage car insurance, traffic accidents are covered under Collision coverage, which would pay for damages to your own car even if the crash was totally your fault. Liability coverage would pay for any damages and injuries you caused to other people.

If policyholders have liability only coverage, vehicle insurance companies still pay for damages and injuries to third parties up to the policy limits once the policyholder is found at fault for the accident. That is why companies are highly concerned about any signs of distracted driving and any related tickets are indications of possible claims in the future.

Although there are some states preventing insurers from considering texting and driving tickets in their premium calculations, most states allow carriers to increase premiums once they see a distracted driving ticket in drivers’ Motor Vehicle Records.

Texting and driving tickets are usually considered minor moving violation tickets but they are enough for motorists to lose their good driver status and related discounts if this is the first offence. That alone will result in about 20% increase in vehicle insurance premiums. If there are other tickets and accidents in driving records, car insurers may either increase the premiums substantially or refuse to offer quotes.

According to the NHTSA, any activity that requires you to take your eyes off the road impairs your ability to drive safely. It points out that motorists take their eyes off the road for at least 5 seconds when they are reading or writing a text. And at 55mph, they can travel the full length of a football field before lifting their head up and looking at the road. It is like driving blind for a few seconds and anything can happen in that time to cause an accident. Traffic in front could slow, another vehicle can move into your lane and drivers can move between lanes without realizing and causing other vehicles to scramble for safety.

According to NHTSA, over 3,000 people get killed every year because of accidents caused by distracted drivers. Cumulative effects of tiredness, high speed and bad weather can make already dangerous distracted driving twice more hazardous. In such circumstances, people may face much heavier penalties if they get caught because they should have known the consequences.

In most cases, distracted driving doesn’t amount to reckless driving even if it leads to accidents. Reckless driving requires total disregard to people’s safety and it is a criminal offence. On the other hand, careless driving is a civil traffic violation that can lead to fines and points on license. But careless driving is a problem too and people can be charged with careless driving if they drive distracted and cause an accident.

Although texting and driving is the first reason that comes to people’s minds when talking about distracted driving, applying makeup, eating, drinking, playing with pets or radio, arguing with passengers are all causes of distracted driving.

Texting and driving is illegal in nearly all states and in half the states using a phone in hand while driving is illegal too. However, eating, drinking, applying makeup and arguing with your passengers aren’t enough cause for a traffic ticket. Motorists have to exhibit signs that they aren’t paying attention to driving like illegally changing lanes or appearing not to be in control of the vehicle.

Every automobile insurance company considers each ticket differently and some are paying more attention to texting and driving tickets lately. On average, motorists can see about 20% increases in their premiums with such tickets on record. If it leads to an at-fault accident, the consequences can be more drastic and the premium increases can range from 40 – 80% depending on the state, insurer and drivers’ history.