Will My Insurance Rates Increase if I Get a Cell Phone Ticket?
Cell phone violations, including texting and driving tickets, can raise your insurance rates by as much as 45%, depending on your location. While penalties vary by state, all jurisdictions agree on the dangers of distracted driving, which claimed more than 3,100 lives in the U.S. in 2020.
Text messaging while driving is illegal in 48 states, excluding Michigan and Montana, though Michigan still imposes a point-based penalty system for texting and driving tickets. States that ban distracted driving impose different penalties based on their location. Likewise, insurers raise rates for distracted driving tickets according to a policyholder’s history, habits, and risk potential.
Table of Contents
How Dangerous Is Distracted Driving?
According to recent reports, nine people were killed in accidents involving a distracted driver in the U.S. every day in 2019. Many states continue to update their laws regarding tickets for texting and driving to reflect these and other related statistics, with some states banning the use of handheld devices entirely while driving. In turn, insurance rates increase by an average of 23% after a cell phone ticket.
How Do Cell Phone Tickets Work?
When a driver gets a cell phone ticket in a state that imposes a ban on texting and driving or using handheld devices behind the wheel, they may receive points on their driving record, which are reported to their insurance company.
Do All Insurers Raise Rates For Cell Phone Tickets?
Insurers in states with lenient policies for traffic violations involving distracted driving may be less likely to raise rates for those customers. Conversely, states that impose strict laws around tickets for texting and driving or using a cell phone while driving enable local insurers to increase their rates drastically. Insurers may not consider this a moving violation and, if no points are assigned, avoid raising rates altogether.
How Much Will a Cell Phone Ticket Raise My Insurance Rates?
The exact amount your rates will increase due to a cell phone ticket depends on your age, location, vehicle, and driving history. Insurers widely acknowledge the practice of raising insurance premiums commensurate to increased distracted driving cases. Insurers charge 20% higher rates today than in 2011, when a distracted driving ticket raised rates by only .2%.
Most states assign fines of varying amounts for the unlawful use of handheld phones while driving or texting and driving. In some states, insurers may only raise rates for drivers who receive a 2nd or 3rd distracted driving ticket. Drivers in Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, West Virginia, and Vermont can be penalized with points on their driving record for cell phone tickets. Drivers with multiple points could pay up to 80% more for car insurance.
Insurers in California, Florida, and Rhode Island raise rates significantly for distracted driving.
Average Insurance Rate
Rate After Distracted Driving Ticket
Driving while texting or using any handheld device is illegal in California; the first offense incurs a fine of $162, with increasing fines for each subsequent offense.
First offense: $30 fine; second offense: $60 fine + three points; texting and driving in a school or construction zone adds additional points
This state bans all handheld devices while driving, even at stop signs and traffic lights; violations can incur fees up to $100.
What If I Got Pulled Over For Another Reason?
States vary in their approach to ticketing for texting and driving when another traffic violation is involved. In states that consider distracted driving a primary offense, drivers can be pulled over and ticketed for texting or using a cell phone while driving. Insurers in these states are more likely to raise rates for cell phone tickets. In other states where distracted driving is considered a secondary offense (you must be pulled over for something else to be ticketed for it), your rates may change depending on the seriousness of the primary traffic violation.
What Is The Court Penalty For a Cell Phone Ticket?
Court penalties for cell phone tickets vary according to state laws. The following table shows the incremental penalties in states with the highest rate increases for distracted driving tickets.
Fine of $162
Increased fine of more than $162; point added if previous distracted driving violation occurred in the past 36 months
Fine continues to increase from 2nd offense; another point added if previous distracted driving violation occurred in the past 36 months
$30 fine + court fees; violation in a school or construction zone adds points
$60 fine + court fees; three points added to driver’s license
$100 fine and/or license suspension of up to 30 days
$150 fine and/or license suspension of up to three months
$250 fine and/or license suspension of up to six months
How Will My Insurer Know I Got a Ticket?
Insurers are not directly informed when you receive a cell phone ticket, but they will see it when they run your driver’s license number to check your driving record when you apply for coverage and again when you renew your policy, usually every 6-12 months. In some states and with safe-driver plans that track cell phone usage, insurers know if you violated the ban even if you do not receive a citation.
Can My Insurer Cancel My Coverage?
Insurers may cancel your coverage if you accrue too many texting and driving tickets or your license is revoked or suspended for violations, including distracted driving during the previous 36 months. Drivers with a ticket for texting and driving, especially first-time offenders, can usually keep their coverage, though their insurer may raise their rates and restrict safe-driver discounts.
How Do Other Forms Of Distracted Driving Affect Insurance?
Insurers consider a driver’s record and accident history when assigning insurance rates. Your cost of insurance increases with risky and irresponsible mistakes like texting and driving or using a handheld phone in the car. Some states distinguish between using hands-free devices, talking, or texting while driving.
Generally, insurers may raise premium rates for any traffic violations that result in points on your driver’s license, accidents, or multiple fines. Aside from texting and cell phone tickets, other forms of distracted driving that could potentially raise your insurance rates include talking to passengers, programming your GPS, and eating or drinking while driving.
How To Decrease Insurance Rates If You Get a Cell Phone Ticket
Although your insurance rates may go up following a cell phone ticket, you can take the following steps to help reduce your insurance costs over time.
Shop Around for a Better Deal
Depending on their location and the local laws around distracted driving tickets, some insurers are more lenient than others regarding raising rates. Shopping for a different policy may help drivers with cell phone tickets save money. Looking for an insurer that offers a “second chance” approach for first-time offenders should yield the best quotes.
Insurers may also offer low rates to drivers with multiple offenses in an effort to seem inclusive; however, this could translate to shady business practices or questionable policy coverage. If you have a cell phone ticket on your record, look for a legitimate insurance provider that offers coverage for drivers willing to improve their standing after enrollment.
Take A Defensive Driving Course or Traffic School
Traffic schools and defensive driving courses can sometimes offer financial relief to drivers with a less-than-perfect record. States that use a point system to penalize drivers for certain traffic violations may extend this penalty to texting and driving tickets or cell phone tickets. Drivers may be able to take a defensive driving course or attend traffic school for a fee to dismiss the ticket.
Not all offenses offer this option as an alternative to paying the fine and/or accumulating points. Every jurisdiction follows different laws when it comes to texting and driving. Some states or cities that would otherwise allow drivers to take defensive driving to keep a clean record have different regulations for distracted driving tickets. Inquire at the DMV in your state for details.
Raise Your Deductible
In most cases, raising your policy’s deductible can help lower your premiums. Your deductible represents the amount you must pay toward the policy’s total cost before insurance kicks in, so raising that amount translates to owing less each month in premium payments.
While you should still practice safe driving and ditch the habit of texting and driving or using a cell phone in your car if you live in a state where it is prohibited, many insurers will offer a higher deductible as a way to counteract the higher rates that come from cell phone tickets. Consider asking your insurance carrier for options to help you find the right deductible-premium balance.
Improve Your Credit Score
Insurers may consider credit scores, among other criteria, when drivers apply for coverage. Applicants with a low credit score might be well-qualified for an affordable policy in other ways; however, everyone knows bad credit permeates the application process for nearly all of life’s major purchases.
A minor traffic ticket may not negatively impact your credit score unless the ticket goes unpaid and is reported to your credit company, thus potentially raising your insurance rates. Cell phone tickets or texting while driving tickets can directly affect prices, especially in states where this practice is illegal and/or points are added to your driving record for such a violation. Therefore, doing the work to improve your credit score can also help lower your rates.
Safe driving discounts incentivize responsible driving habits by lowering rates for drivers who remain free of traffic tickets and accidents for a set period, typically between 1-3 years. Safe driving not only protects you and your passengers but can reduce your rates by more than 30%.
Drivers who get a ticket for texting and driving may be able to improve their insurance rates within a year or more by driving safely and incorporating other methods listed above. Insurers tend to be more forgiving of a minor traffic ticket than a cell phone ticket, texting and driving ticket, or multiple violations, including a distracted driving ticket, within the last few years.
Putting It All Together
Accidents and casualties caused by distracted driving are a serious problem in America today. States continue enacting laws to reduce texting and cell phone use while behind the wheel. Drivers cited with tickets for texting and driving not only put themselves and others at risk but can incur huge fines, points on their license, and steep insurance rate increases.
Every state is different regarding cell phone tickets, and insurers in each state can choose how to approach new and existing clients who commit this type of offense. Most insurers seize on the severity of this widespread issue and charge higher insurance rates to distracted drivers. However, the exact amount of the rate increase depends on factors including the specific laws in your state, your age, and your driving history.