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Your Guide to Car Insurance
What caused my rate to increase? What are the driving laws in my state? What do I do after an accident?
These are common questions asked by American drivers today. You’ve come to the right place for answers.
First, get your free quote, then come back to our site to learn about auto insurance in your state,
the best car insurance companies, how best to shop for your policy, and more.
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It’s no secret that insurance can get a bit complicated. Perhaps one of the most complicated areas of insurance is determining who is responsible for paying for damages when accidents occur. A lot of times the answer is cut and dry, but other times it isn’t so simple.
One of the areas where insurance can get a little complicated is when a wreck is caused by debris on the road, more specifically when a motorcycle wrecks on debris in the road.
No matter how vigilant or careful you ride, some accidents are unavoidable. Even with all of the modern motorcycle safety features, accidents still occur. So if you hit debris in the road and wreck your motorcycle, who pays? Let’s take a look at four scenarios and see what type of insurance coverage will likely be footing the bill.
Let’s jump straight into the first scenario!
#1 - Truck Litters Roadway with Debris
With all of the trash being hauled up and down the roads each day, it’s no surprise that sometimes it falls into the road from time to time. Whether it’s construction debris, limbs from a downed tree, or trash being transported, these objects can pose risks to unsuspecting motorcyclists.
The Scenario- Here’s the scenario. You are riding your motorcycle behind a truck hauling debris that isn’t properly covered. While you are behind the truck, some debris falls out of the truck and causes you to wreck your motorcycle.
Who Pays? According to Personal Injury Law, if the debris was not secured properly, the damage would be covered under the truck driver’s auto insurance policy. Alternatively, if it was a work or construction vehicle, their business liability or umbrella insurance may cover the incident.
In either scenario, whether the offending driver is distracted, or simply doesn't notice what happened behind them, it is unlikely they will stop. So you will want to collect any information you can immediately, which may be difficult if there are no witnesses.
But what if you don’t know where the debris came from? Then you will have to check out scenario two.
#2 - Debris Left By Unknown Source
Debris on the roadway can be caused by a lot of things. Trees drop their leaves in the fall. Branches break in a storm and fall into the road. And of course, as with the previous scenario, a truck’s uncovered litter can fly out. The list truly goes on and on. Of course, leaving debris such as grass on the road is illegal, but unfortunately, that doesn’t stop it from happening.
The Scenario - You are riding down the road on your motorcycle. As you round a turn, you strike debris in the road, causing you to lose traction and wreck. Unlike the first scenario, you don’t know who left the debris, or whether it was a natural occurrence. Either way, there is no responsible party to be found.
Who Pays? If you strike debris on the roadway, and can’t determine the source or the source is natural, you will have to turn to your own auto insurance or Med Pay will cover the bill.
#3 - Company Leaves Debris on the Road
In the previous two scenarios, we looked at incidents where a vehicle left debris on the road. What if a company deposits debris into the road, but this time it’s not dropped from a vehicle? What type of insurance will foot the bill then? Let’s take a look.
The Scenario - This scenario can occur in several ways. Perhaps it’s lawn clippings blown into the road by a landscaping company. Or maybe a construction company puts trash on the road or curb for pick up. Either way, the debris causes you to wreck your motorcycle.
Who Pays? In this scenario, if negligence is proven, a claim would go against the company’s liability or umbrella insurance.
#4 - Homeowner Leaves Debris on the Road
This one is quick, but the insurance is very specific, and it’s worth mentioning. Let’s look at a slight variation of scenario three.
The Scenario - In this scenario, debris is left on the road again as in scenario three. However, this time the debris is left in the road by the resident of the home itself.
Who Pays? In this instance, it will be the resident’s renters or homeowner’s insurance covering the cost.
What’s the bottom line?
Even the most avid motorcycle collectors can be easily overwhelmed by all of the nuances posed by insurance coverage. Hopefully, these four scenarios will simplify the situation a bit.
It should be noted that anytime you wreck your bike on debris in the road you can turn to your own insurance for coverage. Additionally, negligence will also have to be proven to determine the fault of an offending party. But that is a different article entirely!
However, you should always try avoiding an insurance claim and potentially raising your rates. It only makes sense to do so. If you have any more questions about a motorcycle or car insurance, be sure to search for other topics on this website.
Author Bio: Douglas Dedrick is a landscaper with over a decade of experience and a writer on several topics including lawn care, landscaping, and law. Connect with him or read more at Healing Law.
Insurers use a wide variety of factors to determine your insurance rates. The underlying assumption is that all these factors will help them determine how likely are you to file a claim.
Since the insurance company is looking to earn a profit from every policy they write, it wants to make sure that the price (i.e., your premium) is proportional to the risk.
Each claim that you file is an outlay and will reduce the profit of the insurance company. Therefore, your insurer will ask you about your age, marital status, gender, your credit score, and your driving history.
Each of these is used to estimate your driving behavior. E.g., teens are considered high-risk drivers and therefore pay the highest premium amongst policyholders in the voluntary insurance market. On the other hand, insurers may consider a married individual risk-averse.
However, all these are estimations of your driving behavior. Some teens can be risk-averse, whereas a married person can drive recklessly.
What if you do not need to estimate driver behavior? What if your insurance premium is customized based on your driving style?
You stand to save a lot on premiums by driving safely. Whereas, your insurer can accurately price your premium based on driving behavior. Your insurer can quote a competitive rate and at the same time, correctly manage their risk.
No more estimators but data-driven insurance assessment.
This is the promise of telematics.
In this guide, we will help you understand everything that you need to know about telematics in car insurance.
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Telematics in Auto Insurance
Before understanding the benefits of the use of telematics in auto insurance, we should understand the current statistics in road safety.
Road safety is important for only you or the insurer but also for the government. While safer roads would mean fewer claims for insurance companies, the government wants to make roads safer for the residents.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), there were 37,133 fatalities due to crashes in 2017. According to NHTSA, speeding resulted in 9,794 deaths in 2017.
If you count major and minor crashes, there were 6.5 million crashes with 2.7 million injury victims.
All stakeholders, including you, insurance companies, and the governments, will want to reduce these trends.
However, how do you do it?
Governments use traffic tickets, license points, and educational programs to improve driving behavior on the road.
Insurance companies may award discounts for a clean driving record.
But all the incentives and fines do not measure driver behavior. Instead, insurance companies calculate these based on past data rather than present patterns of behavior.
Telematics can provide real-time data that measure driver behavior and help insurance companies understand their risk.
Vehicle telematics is a method to monitor a moving vehicle with GPS and onboard diagnostics to provide a real-time stream of data.
The data collected by the telematics system can then be used to measure your driver event data.
Driver events data may include miles clocked, acceleration & deceleration, cornering speed, etc.
The data from telematics systems can be used to track stolen cars or help manage the maintenance schedule.
However, the first products introduced in the market are basic usage-based insurance policies. This basic pay-as-you-drive (PAYD) insurance products are essentially priced based on the number of miles you drive.
PAYD or otherwise called usage-based insurance, determine your insurance rate based on the following:
How much you drive
When do you drive
Where do you drive
Watch this brief video to understand usage-based insurance:
This data will help insurance companies determine the risk associated with your driving events.
However, the telematics insurance industry has evolved beyond the basic PAYD. In this section, we will understand the different types of telematics systems in the market and the type of data collected by insurance companies.
— What are the types of usage-based car insurance?
The basic usage-based car insurance (UBI) is only concerned with the miles you clock. The parameters measured include distance, time, and location.
Now, let us understand how this basic system useful for an insurance company:
Let us assume that you are driving a reasonable distance but are usually out in the night-time.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), nighttime driving is three times more fatal than daytime driving. Insurance companies generally consider after dark to be riskier than day-time driving and, therefore, may tag your driving schedule riskier than average.
However, there are now more sophisticated systems to understand driver behavior.
While UBI or PAYD gives financial incentives to drive less, other programs such as pay-how-you-drive (PHYD) plans will measure your driving style to calculate risk.
In a PHYD plan, the car's telemetric system will measure vehicle speed, acceleration, braking, corning speed, etc.
The factors used in pay-how-you-drive systems utilize real-time data to create a bespoke insurance plan.
— How do insurers collect driving data?
But, how does telematics systems record your driving data?
Different applications require different types of devices or methods to record your data.
Some insurance companies may use your phone to record and report the driving behavior using an application. However, some systems may require you to install a device in your car that will record and transmit driving events.
However, before we understand the different devices, let us first understand what a telematics device is?
Insurance companies provide telematics devices that connect with GPS and onboard electronics to record your driving behavior.
— Devices used in Telematics Systems
As we mentioned, different telematics systems use different devices to record your driving data.
Here are the common devices used:
Most conventional systems use either mobile applications or devices that can be plugged into the on-board diagnostics port (OBD II Port). OBD II port is available in all cars manufactured in the last 25 years.
Watch the following video to learn how to find the OBD II port in your car:
What is an OBD II port?
If your car is manufactured after 1996, you most probably can find an OBD II port (on-board diagnostics) in your car. It's an on-board computer that can connect to a range of scanners and provide data on speeding, mileage, emissions, and much more.
Various types of devices used in telematics systems include:
Mobile Application: Insurer provided mobile application uses smartphone sensors to track driver-behavior data. The smartphone app transmits data from your phone to the central server of the insurance company. Mobile applications can monitor braking, speed, acceleration, and cornering.
All major insurers provide an option to use mobile applications in select locations. E.g., State Farm offers a mobile app in its 'Drive Safe & Save' plan.
Bluetooth Assisted Devices: These are self-powered fixed vehicle devices that use your smartphone network to relay driving data to the insurer. These fixed devices enable direct association of the trip data with the insured vehicle. E.g., telematics systems may use Bluetooth-assisted devices to track driver behavior.
OBD II Port: This is an onboard computer that monitors all vehicle data, including driver behavior, vehicle maintenance, emissions, etc. The device is plugged into the OBD II port and can transmit the data using the cellular network. E.g., Progressive provides customers an option to use the OBD II port for their telematics insurance plan.
12 V Connector: Companies such as Bosch offers plug and play devices that are useful for customers who may not OBD II connectivity. These are easy to use and doesn't require a battery backup. The device can transmit driver behavior data to your smartphone over Bluetooth.
OEM: Auto manufacturers may also equip a vehicle with in-built telematics functionality. Usually, these are devices independent and provides additional functionality for the users. E.g., OnStar (by General Motors) or mbrace (by Mercedes) are two examples of OEM installed telematics systems that come with additional functionalities.
Here's a brief introduction to the mbrace system from Mercedes:
— What data is collected using different Telematic Systems
Different telematics systems collect different levels of data.
The detail provided with each device is directly proportional to the expense or complexity of installing that device.
Here's a brief comparison of different telematics systems:
As you can see, OEM devices can provide you the highest level of detail. However, the cost to implement and update such systems is also the highest for the car manufacturer.
While smartphones are the quickest and cheapest to implement, they are also restricted by the quality and availability of onboard sensors.
The two devices that can connect to your car and are most comfortable to manage are 12 V connector and OBD II port scanners. These devices are easier to install and can capture additional data points with better accuracy. They use the smartphone Bluetooth and cellular network to transmit the data to the central database.
Here's the summary of the data collected using different systems:
Now, let us review the different options offered by some of the major car insurance providers:
Progressive: Under their SnapShot coverage, Progressive provides telematics-based insurance. The product relays your driving behavior data along with miles, location, and time through a smartphone application.
Travelers: The Intellidrive program from Travelers is a telematics system designed to tailor insurance plans based on driving behavior. Intellidrive uses a mobile application that you need to install on your smartphone. The app will record and score your driving behavior for 90 days, after which Travelers may tweak your insurance plan based on driving behavior.
MetroMile: If you drive less than 10,000 miles in a year, you can save on premiums using MetroMile. The insurance is solely a pay-per-mile insurance product and doesn't record your driving behavior.
Esurance: Esurance offers telematics insurance under DriveSense that requires you to install an application on your smartphone to record driving behavior. You will have to log at least 50 trips in an insurance term to benefit from insurance discounts.
Growth of Telematics in Auto Insurance
Technology is now in everything that we do.
Data availability is changing and evolving many traditional ways of our lives, including auto insurance.
In this section, we will understand how telematics insurance started and where are we headed with this new technology.
— What is the history of telematics technology?
The growth of computation power, coupled with the ability to record real-time data, has created a lot of possibilities for data-driven decision making.
Telematics insurance is also an example of real-time data collection, creating a whole new way of revolutionizing auto insurance.
Telematics technology became a possibility when, in 1996, President Clinton made GPS an international utility. This declaration meant that the use of GPS is available for private citizens for free.
The turning point in telematics implementation was when Progressive Insurance filed for a user-based insurance patent "Motor vehicle monitoring system for determining a cost of insurance." This paved the way for the current of user-based insurance products available in the market today.
The first products to hit the market were the vehicle tracking fleet management systems. Slow data transmissions, the tracking was limited in frequency.
However, with data transmission dropping in price, the systems were able to track vehicles with more real-time updates.
The first smartphone application that tracked vehicle miles was launched in 2010. Metromile introduced its pay-per-mile product in 2011 that offered consumers discounts for driving less.
However, modern telematics systems are increasingly complex due to the advancements in technologies across automotive, smartphone, and data transfer speeds.
— What is the future of telematics-based insurance?
From simple location tracking, telematics systems of today are equipped to record your driving behavior, vehicle status, emissions, etc.
In a fleet management system, the operator can now remotely identify the type of maintenance required, provide in-trip feedback to the driver, and manage fuel consumption.
However, telematics technology is still in infancy. Telematics insurers are providing discounts to users for merely signing up for the product.
Well, both insurance and automotive manufacturers are realizing the potential of telematics technology.
According to TomTom, 88 percent of all global cars will feature integrated telematics. Whereas according to Verisk, more than 90 percent of all vehicles sold in the United States by 2020 will be able to connect with the internet.
Consider that only 5 percent of cars in the United States were connected in 2016.
The surge of data available with so many connected cars will create new ways of product differentiation and even allow companies to spawn entire new lines of business. Consumers, automakers, insurance companies, and governments can benefit from the car data generated by telematics systems.
According to Mckinsey, the global car-data-monetization pool is expected to grow to $750 billion by 2030. The United States is leading the pack with the highest rate of penetration in the voluntary-use of telematics systems.
According to a report by Global Market Insights, the global usage-based insurance market is expected to grow to $107 billion compared to the current level of $37 billion.
The North American market will hold 34 percent market share of the global usage-based insurance.
Several factors can fuel the growth of the telematics insurance market:
In-built telematics: The increasing number of connected cars with OEM installed telematics solutions combined with rapidly growing cloud-based telematics solutions can increase the consumer base.
Ease of usage: The in-built systems may also make it very easy for consumers to use the telematics system. The user doesn't have to install anything on the car or smartphone.
Value-added services: What might tilt the needle towards the voluntary adaptability of telematics systems might be the value-added services provided by automobile manufacturers. The in-built telematics systems provide automobile manufacturers flexibility to include various value-added services such as predictive vehicle maintenance through remote diagnostics, car theft protection, roadside assistance, and much more.
Watch the following video by Mercedes as they explain the benefits of mbrace, their in-built telematics solution:
Benefits of telematics-based auto insurance
Telematics systems have a wide variety of applications for insurance providers, fleet managers, automobile manufacturers, etc.
In this section, we will explore some of the benefits of using a telematics-based system for different stakeholders.
— What are the different types of telematics systems?
Before we understand the benefits of a telematics system, let us review the different applications.
We understand that many auto insurers are offering telematics-based auto insurance to consumers.
However, that is not the only use of a telematics system. Some companies and industries have been using different variants of the technology for several years.
Let us review some of the other applications of telematics systems.
Motorsports - You can find the most advanced use of telematics implementation in a top-tier motorsports event.
In a Formula-1 race, teams track their car's speed, engine performance, fuel consumption, tire degradation, maintenance diagnostics, steering angle, and much more.
Each F1 car has 120 sensors producing 1.1 million telemetry data points per second.
Watch this brief video to understand how telematics has changed the face of motorsports:
Satellite Navigation - Mapping and navigation applications such as Google Maps, TomTom, and Garmin have been providing satellite navigation and traffic update to the consumer.
Companies providing navigation services can some times use your location data to calculate the vehicle density on the roads. It can use your location data to detect the estimated speed and distance to your destination.
Here's a short video explaining how the sat navs work:
Fleet Management - Fleet operators such as logistics companies, shipping companies, or taxi operators use telematics devices to manage and optimize their operations.
Fleet management companies were the first to use vehicle tracking. Fleet telematics systems can help companies track vehicles, run diagnostics, providing drivers with real-time feedback, help save fuel, and much more.
Connected Cars - Automakers have realized that telematics technology can create a whole new revenue source. The automakers are now creating in-built systems that not only provide the relevant data for stakeholders (such as insurance companies) but engaging and useful for the consumers.
According to RBC Capital Markets, the connected car market will grow at a compounded annual growth rate of 25 percent in the coming decade. The complex systems may provide different features to consumers based on vehicle manufacturers but will aim to track driving-related information that can be used in the future.
— What are the benefits of telematics systems?
We understand that telematics systems have a wide variety of applications across different industries. The recent growth in telematics systems is due to the benefits each stakeholder may achieve from the generated data.
In this section, we will analyze the benefits of using the telematics system.
— What are the benefits of telematics for motorists?
Lower premiums - The primary benefit for you is lower premiums. If you are a good driver, you can benefit from a lower rate that accurately measures your risk factor. Insurance companies will calculate your rates based on driving behavior and location rather than your lifestyle, home address, and credit score. A teen driver can hope to reduce the premium based on good driving behavior substantially.
Driver feedback - You can also receive reports and driver feedback from data generated from the telematics system. It can help you improve driving characteristics and may reduce the chance of an accident.
Connected cars - If your car has an in-built system, the chances are that you have access to a connected system that can provide you value-added services. E.g., you may have access to automatic emergency notification that dispatches emergency services to your car's location if airbags are deployed. Value-added services may also include vehicle locator, remote unlocking, etc.
Theft protection - Telematic systems can not only track your stolen vehicle but also prevent it from starting after the ignition has been turned off. A telematics system may also be able to reduce the speed of your stolen car in case of a police chase.
Transparent claim process: Accident data will help insurers to identify who is at fault, making the claim process transparent.
You can watch this brief video by Edmunds.com to get a brief overview of the benefits of a telematics system:
— What are the benefits of telematics for auto insurers?
Telematics systems are also beneficial for insurance companies. The traditional process of providing insurance cover was that a customer signed up for insurance and paid premiums calculated based on factors that 'estimated' the driving risk.
If the driver files for a claim, the insurance company may not know the factors that led to the accident. It also meant that insurance companies were not pricing the current risk.
Telematics systems are expected to revolutionize the auto insurance market. Here are the possible benefits for insurance companies:
Accurate risk assessment - Insurance companies can find direct risks associated with your driving style. The companies can provide you feedback and reduce the chance of a claim. The information in aggregate can also improve the market understanding of insurance companies regarding certain sections of the road/city/town.
Fighting insurance fraud - Telematics systems can help insurance companies fight insurance fraud by providing play-by-play action of the events that led to the accident. The insurance companies can accurately ascertain who was at fault for the accident.
Reduce claim costs - Driver feedbacks and discount incentives for good driver behavior can result in a general improvement in driving habits that can lead to reduced claims.
— What are the benefits of telematics for organizations with fleets?
Let us analyze some of the benefits that organizations with large fleet may find from telematics systems:
Vehicle Tracking - Companies such as FedEx or UBS might use vehicle tracking to estimate the time of delivery accurately. Law enforcement can also use vehicle tracking to locate and retrieve a vehicle in case of theft.
Remote diagnostics - Vehicle downtime can prove critical for a fleet operator. Telematics systems can inform them about maintenance requirements before a breakdown.
Driver feedback - Operators can track driver behavior and provide real-time feedback. This can help prevent accidents and improve fuel efficiency. Companies can also develop customized training programs to help drivers improve their ability
Fuel-saving - Fleet operators can now identify and retrain aggressive drivers, choose more fuel-efficient route, or improve vehicle performance using a telematics system
Network Optimization - Companies such as UBS have been using telematics to improve their network efficiency. The data collected can help them remove idle time in the system and reduce overheads.
Telematics and the Auto Insurance Law
Regulators have been supportive of the first movers of the usage-based insurance providers. However, as the industry is evolving and new challenges come to fore, regulators might change their stance.
Companies offering usage-based insurance products are currently subscribing consumers so that they have a sufficient database for actuarial calculations. The companies are not penalizing customers who sign up and showcase unsafe driving behavior.
However, companies will look to leverage the data they are gathering and match the premium to their risk exposure. At that point, safe drivers will likely get discounts, whereas unsafe drivers will see their premium rise.
As the industry will reach a threshold, lawmakers and regulators may challenge parts of a telematics-based insurance program. The regulators might enforce greater transparency in premium calculations to protect against discrimination.
Overall, road safety may be the most crucial aspect of usage-based insurance for governments and regulators.
In this section, let us review a few laws and regulations that may influence the telematics-based insurance market.
— What are the regulations on telematics and data privacy?
Telematics-based auto insurance is still in infancy, and therefore, the laws are not yet clear on data privacy and data ownership regulations.
The law is still evolving regarding who owns the data right from the telematics systems. There are a few instances of state insurance and privacy laws that help protect customer information.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), federal laws provide customers some remedies if their information is sold to a third-party for commercial purposes.
However, we are still unsure as to who owns the data generated by the telematics system. The federal laws imply that customers must be the owners of the generated data.
But the good news is that state regulators are supporting the adoption of UBI programs.
E.g., the New York State Department of Financial Services issued a press release encouraging all New York insurers to adopt usage-based insurance plans.
— What are the regulations regarding fleet telematics?
In the United States, laws regarding the use of tracking devices for fleet management vary from state to state.
A large majority of US states allow employers to track their fleet. However, to track a vehicle, an employer has to meet the following conditions:
Employer owns the vehicle
Employer informs the employee or vehicle operator that they are monitoring the vehicle
Employer tracks the vehicle during agreed business hours
Remember, law enforcement can jail or penalize you if you track a vehicle that you do not own.
The quantum of punishment varies across different states.
Trends in usage-based auto insurance
The adoption of telematics-based auto insurance has been rapidly growing globally. Globally, rising urbanization and improved internet connectivity are expected to drive the adoption of telematics.
The United States has been leading the world in telematics adoption. Connected cars and electric vehicles are the two most significant factors that will support the adoption of telematics in the US.
Electric vehicles - Growing consumer demand for electric vehicles will lead to investment by automakers towards in-built telematics systems. A telematics system is critical for operating an electric vehicle.
Apart from tracking the regular driving, telematics systems in electric vehicles are also expected to provide some of the following services:
Locate the nearest fast-charging station
Reserve the nearest charging station
Ability to check the vehicle charging status remotely
Ability to control when to charge the vehicles remotely
Receive notification of completion or interruption in the charging process
Remotely operate HVAC systems in the car
Run diagnostics for battery health
Connected Cars - Increasingly, auto manufacturers are offering value-added services through the in-built telematics system. OEMs are offering new services such as restaurant reservations, ignition on notification, remote diagnostics, access to traffic cameras, and much more.
V2X Connectivity - Apart from relaying data to the OEM or your insurance providers, the telematics systems in your car can also connect with other connected cars or devices. V2X capability will allow your car to interact with smart traffic lights, toll road sensors, and other third-party applications.
A V2X system can relay critical information over a network and aid in collision avoidance, traffic updates, road hazard warning, and much more.
Data-centric ecosystem - Due to a large amount of data that is generated through vehicle tracking, a large number of companies and business models are emerging that did not exist before. Here is a brief snapshot of different types of companies that are now in the automotive and transportation market:
Parking lot management to help locate available parking
Third-party applications for vehicle Telematics
Cloud service providers
Big data tool providers
Connected fleet management companies
Application developer platforms for telematics systems
Connected electric vehicles
Safety and security
V2X communication provider
Criticisms of Telematics in Auto Insurance
The telematics systems are still in their infancy and will continue to evolve as more and more people adopt the technology. However, there are a few criticisms of usage-based insurance that might impact the adoption process.
In this section, we will discuss why telematics-based insurance is attracting criticism from various stakeholders.
— What are the disadvantages for consumers?
Even though insurers are offering sizeable discounts, some customers are reluctant to adopt telematics-based insurance. These are some of the concerns that might influence a consumer negatively about usage-based insurance:
Rate hike for some consumers: Many good drivers can hope to reduce their premiums. However, drivers who have to drive during the rush hour or at night may see their premium rates increase.
Unable to differentiate driver behavior: If you drive well but have to brake hard to prevent an accident, the system will record it as risky driver behavior. If you are driving in cities such as New York, you may end up spending more on your car insurance due to telematics-based insurance.
Privacy and safety of data: The data collected by the telematics systems may have a lot of information about where, when, and how you are driving. After using the telematics system, you may end up handing over a lot of personal information to your insurer.
See this brief video about privacy and data concern regarding telematics insurance:
Unintended Driver Behavior: In a quest to get additional discounts, drivers can adapt their driving behavior for minimum penalties. E.g., you may be reluctant to apply brakes and increase the possibility of an accident.
Unable to distinguish drivers: Currently, the systems are not able to distinguish between different users of the car. If your teen is learning driving, their potential immature driving skills can increase your usage-based insurance premium.
— What are the disadvantages for insurance companies?
Insurance companies are expected to gain a lot of accurate data on their risk exposure because of the telematics systems. However, there are a few disadvantages of telematics for insurance companies:
Installation costs: Insurance companies usually offer the required telematics device to capture driving data from your car. The OBD II device is relatively inexpensive and provides accurate data, but cannot be used in cars manufactured before 1996.
Data accuracy: The companies have started using smartphone apps to reduce costs and make it interoperable. However, data collected from smartphones is dependent on the sensor quality of the smartphone.
— What are the disadvantages for third-party operators?
In the case of in-built telematics systems, third-party users such as local mechanics and insurance companies may not have real-time access to the driving data. Automakers may have control over who gets what data and how. Third-party users may able to provide value-added services with real-time or frequent access to data.
Regardless, usage-based insurance is here to stay. The genie is out of the back, and insurance companies cannot move back to status-quo. However, technology and evolve as we continue to utilize and adopt.
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In 2017, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 3,166 drivers and 599 non-vehicle occupants (i.e. bicyclists, pedestrians) lost their lives due to distracted driving in that year alone.
The NHTSA's study also revealed that of the people who died in crashes involving distracted driving that year, 297 were teen drivers between the ages of 15 and 19, comprising the largest proportion of motorists who were distracted when the fatal crashes occurred.
While cell phones are the most obvious distraction that comes to mind, the reality is, that distracted driving can stem from a variety of causes — with sometimes fatal consequences.
Depending on the state you live in, certain forms of distracted driving, like the use of hand-held devices while behind the wheel, are prohibited by law, incurring strict penalties. And that's not even to mention the impact a distracted driving violation could have on your auto insurance premiums.
In the following article, we're going to take a deep dive into exactly what car insurance consumers need to know about distracted driving, including the different types and forms of distracted driving, important statistics, distracted driving laws by state, the effect a distracted driving violation could have on your insurance costs, and more.
Don't hit rubber to the road again without making sure you're protected by the best auto insurance for your driving needs. Just enter your zip code in our free online tool above.
Without further ado, let's get down to business.
What Car Insurance Consumers Need to Know About Distracted Driving
So, you might be thinking, what exactly is distracted driving? You probably already know that using your mobile device behind the wheel could be a major distraction, but that's just one instance of many.
Let's take a closer look at what distracted driving is in practice, including the various types, and activities that commonly distract drivers, thereby increasing roadway dangers.
- What Is Distracted Driving?
Simply put, distracted driving is driving while performing another activity that diverts your attention from the task of driving.
According to data released by the NHTSA, reading or sending a text diverts your eyes from the road for approximately five seconds. Assuming you're driving 55 mph, that essentially is like driving the entire length of a football field — with your eyes shut.
Whether it the activity involves talking, texting on your cell phone, drinking, eating, adjusting your stereo system, or messing with your vehicle's navigation system — if it draws your attention away from the road, it's a form of distracted driving.
If you tend to stay nervous or anxious because of an underlying reason, that can also distract you while driving and you should try different ways to stay calm behind the wheels.
- Types of Distracted Driving
There are three primary types of distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (AAA-FTS) conducted a study in 2013 entitled Cognitive Distraction: Something to Think About, citing the following:
Experts generally agree that driver distraction stems from three sources: visual (eyes off the road), manual (hands off the wheel), and cognitive (mind off the task). Of these, cognitive distraction is the most difficult to observe and measure. While there is evidence of public and policymaker understanding of the risks involved with visual and manual distractions (especially texting while driving), there appears to be less appreciation for the risks involved with cognitive (or mental) distractions.
Let's take a closer look at each of these forms of distracted driving. Remember:
Visual distracted driving is when someone takes their eyes off the road.
Manual distracted driving is when someone takes their hands away from the wheel.
Cognitive distracted driving is when someone's mind wanders from the task of driving.
Whereas visual distractions divert the motorist's eyes from the road ahead, cognitive driver distractions are mental distractions that divert the motorist's mind from safe driving. Something as seemingly simple as worrying about an upcoming job interview or thinking about a recent argument could comprise cognitive distracted driving.
AAA-FTS's study further noted that certain cognitive distractions pose more danger than others. For example, listening to an audiobook or the radio isn't nearly as distracting as speaking with a passenger or talking to someone on the phone, be it a hand-held or hands-free device. Certain advances in modern vehicle technology such as speech-to-text systems that allow drivers to send and receive messages could also prove to be highly cognitively distracting.
In the case of manual distracted driving, these are the distractions that take the motorist's hands off of the steering wheel. For instance, if you're holding a beverage or food while you drive, that would constitute a manual distraction.
- Activities that Distract Drivers
According to the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 26 percent of all car crashes involve cell phone usage.
From applying makeup behind the wheel to simply taking your eyes off the road because you're lost or see an accident on the other side of the highway, it only takes a few seconds of distraction to cause a potentially catastrophic crash.
Did you know that there is an actual scientific explanation behind the activities that frequently cause distracted driving? Here's the lowdown —
One of the reasons it's so difficult to put down your electronic device while driving is because smartphones naturally stimulate addictive qualities.
The human brain responds to phone alerts, which make sit more difficult to hold off on checking your phone will driving.
Getting a text, email, or social media post on your mobile device heightens the supply of dopamine to the brain, a chemical that among other things, would cause a compulsion to check your phone.
Must-Know Distracted Driving Statistics
A recent study released by the Insurance Information Institute (III) revealed that there were 2,935 fatal crashes involving distracted driving in 2017 alone, comprising a staggering nine percent of all fatal crashes in the country that year.
To understand the full extent of the impact distracted driving can have on motorists of all ages, we're going to take a close look at some jaw-dropping statistics.
These include distracted driving fatalities by factors such as the driver demographic and the person type, plus distracted driving crashes that did not result in fatalities, but still caused measurable losses.
Let's dig deeper —
- Distracted Driving Fatalities
Be warned – the video above is a sobering look at the tragic impact that a few moments of distracted driving can reap, putting a face to the consequences of this pandemic.
Next, take a look at the table below, revealing data from the NHTSA's most recent 2017 study regarding fatalities stemming from distracted driving crashes between 2013 and 2017.
As you can see, the percentage of fatal crashes impacted by distracted driving barely changed at all during the years listed, with accidents involving cell phone usage comprising 13 to 14 percent of all distracted driving collisions during the four-year period studied.
- Distracted Driving Fatalities by Demographic
The table below illustrates the most recent data collected by our research team from the NHTSA's 2017 distracted driving study, indicating the number of drivers involved in fatal crashes by age demographic, distraction, and cell phone usage.
Now, let's break down the data a bit. This table compares the percentage of motorists in each age group involved in fatal collisions to the percentage of motorists involved in distracted driving fatal crashes.
The numbers clearly point to one thing — drivers under the age of 30 have among the highest incidence of fatal crashes of all the age demographics examined, as evidenced in the data shown in the Percentage of Total Drivers and Percentage of All Distracted Drivers columns.
For all fatal collisions in 2017, six percent of the motorists involved were between the ages of 15 and 19, comprising 3,255 out of the total 52,274 driver fatalities. Furthermore, nine percent of distracted drivers were also between 15 and 19 years of age, making up 271 out of the 2,994 total distracted drivers involved in fatal crashes that year.
Roughly 16 percent of the distracted drivers who were using cell phones were also between the ages of 15 and 19. This means that of the 404 distracted driving fatal crashes involving cell phone usage — 63 of those fatalities were teen motorists.
Drivers in their 20s aren't too far behind, as this age demographic comprised 23 percent of motorists in fatal crashes that year. However, 20-something drivers made up 27 percent of distracted drivers and a staggering 37 percent of the distracted motorists using their cell phones when fatal accidents occurred.
Considering the remarkable incidence of distracted driving fatalities in teen motorists, in particular, let's take a look at some other eye-opening stats revealed in the NHTSA's 2017 Teen Distracted Driver study.
Seven percent of the individuals who died in 2017 distracted driving crashes were teens aged 15 to 19 years old.
Nine percent of distracted drivers involved in fatal collisions in 2017 were teens aged 15 to 19 years old.
Nine percent of all 2017 teen vehicle crash fatalities involved distracted driving.
Eight percent of individuals killed in accidents involving a teen between 15 and 19 in 2017 died when teen motorists were distracted.
Eight percent of teen drivers were were involved in fatal motor vehicle accidents in 2017 were distracted when the crash happened.
52 percent of individuals killed in teen distracted driving crashes in 2017 were teens between 15 and 19.
- Distracted Driving Fatalities by Person Type
The table above contains additional data from the NHTSA's 2017 distracted driving study, indicating distracted driving fatalities by vehicle occupant and nonoccupant.
- Distracted Driving Crashes Resulting in Injuries or Property Damage
Check out the table below, revealing the latest data from the National Safety Council regarding motor vehicle crashes and distracted driving accidents resulting in injuries or property-damage only between 2011 and 2016.
You'll notice that injury crashes involving cell phone usage between 2011 and 2013 increased steadily, before decreasing in 2014 and 2015 and going up again in 2016.
The Best and Worst States for Distracted Driving
The distracted driving laws across the country vary by state, but 20 states including The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Guam all bar drivers from utilizing handheld devices behind the wheel.
Each of these states are primary enforcement, which means that a law enforcement officer could pull someone over for using a hand-held device without any other type of traffic offense needing to occur to validate the stop.
According to the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA), no state currently bans cell phone usage for all motorists, but 39 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia have established a ban on cell phone use by novice motorists.
In addition, 20 states and the District of Columbia also have a cell phone ban in place for school bus drivers.
Washington was the very first state to establish a texting ban back in 2007. Now, 48 of the 50 states, along with the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virginia islands ban all drivers from texting messaging, with all but three having primary enforcement in place.
Now, let's take a closer look at the laws and penalties drivers could face when they engage in distracted driving.
- Distracted Driving Laws and Penalties
The table above contains the most current data published by GHSA regarding the hand-held device distracted driving laws across the country, including whether each state follows primary enforcement or secondary.
While primary enforcement allows a law enforcement officer to pull someone over and issue a citation without another traffic offense occurring, secondary enforcement requires that the officer issue a ticket or pull over the individual only if there is another citable traffic infraction at play.
If you're wondering just how much you might have to pay if you get pulled over for texting or using a handheld device while driving, the short answer is — it all depends. Let's take a look at some of the states that assess some of the steepest fines for distracted driving:
Hawaii fines motorists up to nearly $300 for texting while driving — and that number is just for first-time offenders
In the state of Alaska, texting while driving is classified as a misdemeanor, which means that motorists face fines as high as $1,000 and in certain instances, up to one year's imprisonment
If someone causes an accident in Iowa, fines could be levied on other motorists as high as $1,000
Indiana fines for texting while driving can range upwards of $500
In the state of Utah, violators could be hit with fines as high as $750, and in specific instances, face jail time, based on the kind of offense involved
New Jersey motorists could incur penalties up to $400 for texting while driving
In the vast majority of states, the fines for texting while driving tickets can be as low as $50 up to $200. But as you can see, depending on the state you live in, you could be paying much, much more.
Take Oregon, for example.
The fine for first-time texting while driving violation? Up to $1,000. A second offense? You could be looking a up to $2,500 in fines.
Then, you have a state like Wisconsin, where texting while driving tickets could be as low as $20. Depending on the state you live in though, you could face more than fines — you may have points added to your driver's license record as well.
- Education and Programs
With the onslaught of distracted driving only further propelled by the ever digital world we live in, new waves of technology and programs are emerging to help combat dangerous driving habits like texting while driving to promote safer conditions for motorists everywhere.
Let's take a closer look at some of the options automotive manufacturers are starting to incorporate into vehicle designs to promote roadway safety and increased cognizance.
- Features and Applications
Voice controls and hands-free connectivity — Most automakers now provide Bluetooth connectivity integration that allows drivers to talk and manage their media devices without the need to use their hands. Sometimes, these systems feature voice-activated controls so you can use voice commands to activate components of your vehicle system such as your audio system, climate control, and navigation system — all without taking your eyes off the road!
Lane departure warnings — If you zone out and start to go over the road marker without turning on your signal, a lane-departure alert would notify you at once, either with a physical alert or a warning tone. Some of the more advanced lane departure warning technologies impact steering or lightly apply the brakes to help guide the driver back into the correct lane.
Crash avoidance systems — These systems feature autonomous braking technology that tracks the area ahead of your car to let you know if there is a road danger ahead, such as a pedestrian, stopped vehicle, or animal. The crash avoidance system would then automatically force your car to brake to help you avoid any possibility of a wreck.
Drowsy driver detection — A growing number of auto manufacturers are also providing consumers with monitoring systems to let them know if they're falling asleep or tired. Both sensory and audible alerts like a light tap on the brakes, a chime, or a shoulder belt tug are all possible alerts that could be used to notify the driver that it's time to pull over and regroup.
What about apps? Well, there are numerous devices and mobile applications utilizing cell phone blocking technology you can leverage to enhance your family's safety on the roadways. Some of the top apps that have been designed to help prevent distracted driving include:
Canary — This free app equips parents with all the information they need to help keep their kids safe on the road.Whenever their child tweets, texts, or takes a call while behind the wheel, Canary sends a text notification to the parent. The app also sends notifications if the teen driver goes over a certain speed or outside a certain perimeter so you know that your child is safe.
TextArrest — This app lets parents control how their teen uses their phone while in a moving car. You can also set the app up to let you know if your teenager overrides the settings and travels beyond a certain location or over the speed limit. The app can also be used to notify parents in the event of an emergency.
TextLimit — TextLimit inhibits certain features on a mobile device from working when the phone is traveling over a specific speed. After the phone returns to the predetermined speed, the app restores the lost features to function as normal.
CellControl — This program is a unique option that disables the driver's phone only, but allows passengers to continue to use their mobile devices freely. With CellControl, it's possible to impede certain predetermined behaviors such as playing games, taking selfies, texting, and using social media when behind the wheel. The app can also be used to keep an eye on cell phone usage to determine that the teen is acting responsibly.
DriveSafe.ly — The app reads incoming emails and text messages as they come in, even shorthand. With this app, you can still receive all your important information in real-time, without having to worry about looking down at your phone and diverting your eyes from the road.
DriveScribe — This app actually blocks incoming texts and calls when the vehicle is moving over a particular speed. It also notifies motorists when they are driving too fast.
Live2Txt —The Live2Txt app turns calls and texts that are incoming off on command, besides allowing you to send a message to whoever is sending the call or text that you are driving and are currently unavailable.
AT&T DriveMode — This app is free and activates once your car reaches speeds of 15 mph. The app not only blocks tempting text alerts but can send automatic replies to texts for you. Parents also have the option to program the app to send them an alert when it's switched off.
Samsung — Samsung's app called In-Traffic Reply lets you set up automatic replies to text messages or calls. The app also senses when a vehicle is in motion by using the device's GPS system.
Verizon Driving Mode — You can activate this feature from the Android messaging app to send automatic messages and block texts.
Sprint Drive First — Reserved exclusively for Sprint customers, the Andoird app silences text and email alert and reroutes calls to voicemail as soon as your car reaches speeds of 10 mph. There are 911 and exit buttons on the device's home screen so you can override the app in case of an emergency.
- Usage-Based Insurance for Safer Driving
Usage-based insurance options promote safer driving by incentivizing motorists with discounts on coverage, which could incidentally reduce the risk of distracted driving.
While only driving data is generally collected with telematics information from consumer smartphones, the activities often tracked while the insured is behind the wheel include device handling, screen walking and sleeping, calls, and other device uses.
Insurers use the resulting smartphone data in congruence with vehicle driving and other elements to score the individual's distraction levels, thereby providing a risk assessment for the driver's usage-based insurance scoring. Carriers can also use the data in feedback programs to consumers for the purposes of encouraging safe driving behavior and discouraging distracted driving.
Check out the table below, listing the potential savings consumers could enjoy if they opt for usage-based insurance from some of the top providers in the U.S. insurance market.
Distracted Driving and Auto Insurance Penalties
Driving distracted is no joke, and depending on your insurance company, you could see a noticeable jump in rates if you're slapped with a ticket for texting while driving.
Sounds like something you need to know about, right?
Keep scrolling to find out why your rates would increase with a ticket for texting and driving and just how high they could go up.
- Will My Rates Increase If I Get a Ticket for Texting While Driving?
You already know now that the legal penalties for texting while driving vary widely depending on the state you live in. The same rings true in terms of any car insurance penalty — your rates may go up, but not always.
In fact, a number of states actually ban insurers from factoring texting tickets into the mix when assessing consumer premiums. These states include Idaho, North Carolina, Massachusetts, and Washington.
In addition, a number of states don't assign any penalty points to individuals that receive texting tickets. Typically, the more serious the nature of the violation is, the more points will be assigned. Of course, if you are assigned too many points, you could face license suspension.
So, violations that aren't accompanied by points are far less likely to have as significant an impact on how much you have to fork over in car insurance premiums. States that currently don't designate points after a texting while driving violation include:
However, if you do live in a state where texting while driving ticket is classified as a moving violation and allocates points to your record, you could see a noticeable increase when your insurance policy is up for renewal. Plus, if you've had past moving violations in addition to a texting violation, that could compound the situation further.
Depending on where you live, points generally remain on your driving record for anywhere from one to three years, and once they drop off, your insurance should go down accordingly. In certain cases, the violation won't go onto your driving record if you opt to undergo a state-approved driver safety course.
- Why Would Insurance Companies Care?
Insurance companies can only remain profitable, financially stable, and successful in the long run if they maintain a healthy, low loss ratio.
An insurer's loss ratio is what the company is paying out in claims vs. what it's earning back in written premiums. Insurance companies don't just have an obligation to consumers but to shareholders and owners as well.
The costs associated with paying for injuries and other damages stemming from a collision are steep. To a carrier, a distracted driving violation is an indicator that the consumer poses a higher risk to insure, and therefore it's only natural that the individual should expect to pay higher premiums as a result.
Behavior that poses risk, such as using your mobile device while driving, tells an insurer that they might have to pay out a significant claim in the future in the event you cause a collision. To mitigate any projected losses and maintain its financial security, the insurer would then charge higher annual premiums for coverage.
- How High Will Rates Go Up?
How high your rates could go up after receiving a ticket for texting while driving depends on numerous factors, not the least of which is the specific insurer.
Factors such as your previous history of violations, if any, including accidents and speeding tickets would also be likely factored into the mix.
- Companies With the Highest and Lowest Penalties for Distracted Driving
The table below provides an example of the potential increase you could see in your annual insurance premiums after receiving a citation for texting while driving. The states included below are California and Florida with rates from GEICO and Farmers featured.
And considering that Florida has previously ranked as the second-worst state for distracted driving, pay close attention to how much these top insurers in the U.S. market could adjust your rates based on one violation.
You'll notice, that in the state of California, for example, if you have coverage through Farmers, you could see an annual increase in premiums of roughly $2,000 a year after getting a ticket for texting while driving. Hardly small change!
The lesson to be learned here is that driving safely and eliminating distractions doesn't only help protect you, your passengers, and your fellow drivers whenever you hit rubber to the road. It could mean the difference in thousands of dollars worth of additional premium costs per year.
What to Do After a Distracted Driving Accident
In the event you witness or are the victim of someone else's distracted driving, you might be wondering — what comes next?
Keep reading and you'll find out.
- Should I Report Distracted Driving When I See It?
If you see the warning signs that a driver on the road with you is driving distracted, here are a few important steps to take to help you avoid a collision.
Assume that that person doesn't see your car at all
Try to pull ahead of the other individual, or slow your vehicle and let them proceed ahead
Afford the distracted driver more wiggle room and a wider berth than perhaps you otherwise wood
If you are unable to get away from the distracted driver, call 911 to alert them of your concern
- What Do I Do If I'm Involved in an Accident with a Distracted Driver But the Police Don't Witness It?
While causes of collisions such as drunk driving can easily be traced with a sobriety test if the responding officer even slightly suspects that one of the parties involved is drunk, the same doesn't hold true for distracted driving matters.
While distracted driving is one of the chief causes of car accident fatalities and personal injury, even if there is a reason to suspect that an accident stemmed from distracted driving, the law enforcement officer at the scene wouldn't be able to automatically search the person's phone without some type of court order.
However, there are lawful ways to seize evidence for the purposes of investigation, including by a subpoena, search warrant, or other court order, depending on the circumstances and nature of the case.
- Tips for Reducing Distractions While Driving
Before we let you go, check out these quick but effective tips to help you stay focused on the road in front of you at all times whenever you get behind the wheel.
Only use your cellphone in the event of an emergency while you're driving.
Try to limit the level of activity and number of passengers in your car at any one time.
If you start to feel sleepy, pull off the road.
Don't eat while driving — spilling food can be a huge distraction on the road.
Don't try to multitask when you're behind the wheel, even if you're tempted to take care of that business call or adjust the radio to hear your favorite beats. Do it all before you hit the road instead!
Turn your phone off and switch it to Do Not Disturb so you won't be tempted to use it at your next red light.
Try to plan your route ahead of time so you don't have to divert your eyes from the road searching for the right street or destination.
Don't reach for anything that falls while you're driving.
If you're the parent of a teen, think about restricting the number of passengers they can transport until your teen is more experienced on the road.
Frequently Asked Questions
If your mind's buzzing with questions about distracted driving, you've come to the right place.
#1 — Is driving while fatigued considered a distraction?
Remember, distracted driving is anything that takes your attention away from the task at hand — driving. Driving drowsy isn't just a major distraction, but can prove incredibly dangerous as well.
If you ever start to feel extremely tired while on the road, it's better to pull over and find a safe place to take a quick nap rather than to try to push forward, potentially putting yourself and other drivers at risk.
#2 — What is electronic distracted driving?
This simply refers to distracted driving involving wireless communications devices, such as through the use of emailing, text messaging, and calls on your phone. And as you know — this type of distracted driving poses some of the most significant road danger, both to vehicle occupants and nonoccupants.
#3 — Can I be stopped by a police officer for using my mobile device even if I'm driving legally?
If you live in a state with secondary enforcement, the police officer isn't permitted to stop you unless there is another citable offense at play. With primary enforcement, police can stop you without that requirement.
#4 — Am I permitted to text at a red light?
While it depends on the state or city you live in, generally, the answer is no or the laws are unclear in that respect. In any case, it's much safer to either wait until you get from Point A to Point B or pull over safely at a rest stop to check your messages.
#5 — Can a police officer impound my phone without my permission?
No, not without you giving permission or the officer obtaining a warrant.
Still have questions about distracted driving in your state? Comment below and let us know.
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