Distracted driving not only dangerous, but could be costing you money

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WBTW) – If you’ve noticed an increase in your auto insurance rates you’re not alone, local insurance agents say rates have been increasing the past few years and they say a major reason is distracted drivers.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says 64% of all auto accidents nationwide are caused by distracted drivers.  The past few years have seen an increase in both the number of claims and their severity, which has pushed insurance rates up for everyone.

“Ours has gone up about 30 percent,” said Becky Johnston from Garden City.  Johnston and her husband Bob are retired, living on a fixed income, and are frustrated to see their auto insurance rates rise.

“They’re going up and up.  And as much as we do to try to lower it, it doesn’t work,” complained Becky.  “We even had a smart ride put in for a four-month period of time and our rates were supposed to go down 25% because we’ve done good in both vehicles,” explained Bob Johnston. “Then I got my last bill and it was higher than the previous year I ask them about it and he said ‘that’s because our rates have gone up.’  I said 25%?!  He said ‘yep just about.’”

Steven Franks, the regional sales manager at AAA Insurance, says a major reason for the rising rates is an increase of claims related to distracted drivers, “texting and driving and things like that have continued to skyrocket over the past few years.”

According to the Insurance Service Office, in South Carolina, the cost of claims involving bodily injury has increased every year since 2007.  In 2016, increases were expected to be greater than 7% compared to 2015.

Franks says auto wrecks had been going down substantially for years, “then around 2014 we saw that trend start to up tick and one of the correlating factors with that is obviously that cell phone use has been going up drastically over those years as well.”

Another reason is that cars are becoming more expensive to repair.  “With things like connected cars and the smart dashes and things like that on top of the uptick of accidents that have been caused by texting and driving,” said Franks, who added he doesn’t expect the trend to reverse anytime soon.

“The texting and driving problem, and really the distracted driving problem is becoming the new issue just like drunk driving was sometime back; so until we can combat that and really get a grasp on that, I wouldn’t expect any decreases in the near future,” said Franks.

Franks did offer some advice to drivers that can lower their rates including taking driving courses that can give you discounts and lowering your deductibles which  would give you a lower monthly bill; but would increase your out-of-pocket expenses if you do get in an accident.

And you may able to find a lower rate by shopping around for insurance.  “It never hurts to take a look and see to make sure you are still getting good value  for what you’re paying for; but also too just being able to find a trusted adviser that you can trust on when something does happen,” said Franks.