Zaneta Wood, Ed.S. has over 15 years of experience in research and technical writing bringing a keen understanding of data analysis and information synthesis to reach a wide variety of audiences. She studied adult education and instructional technology at Appalachian State University as well as technical and professional communication at East Carolina University. Zaneta has prepared technical p...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers Insurance CSR 4 Years

UPDATED: Jun 25, 2019

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Any time you are given a ticket or other penalty for a driving infraction you run the risk of having your rates increased. If this is your first offense and you have a forgiving insurance provider you may be safe from a rate increase. Most people; however, will not, and will end up paying more.

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It is best to obey the law if you live in or travel through a state where cell phone use while driving is prohibited. Not only is it the law in many places, avoiding the use of your phone for calls or texting while driving will help to keep you and other drivers safe.

An increasing number of states are passing laws restricting the use of cell phones while driving.

This is in response to an increasing amount of research showing that distracted driving, mainly due to the use of cell phones, is the cause of the majority of accidents and driver fatalities in this country today. If you are ticketed for driving while talking or sending a text message on your phone you not only will have to pay the fine but may have to pay more for your car insurance.

Cell Phone Laws

Laws regarding the use of cell phones while driving differ greatly from state to state. Some states have no restrictions while others have significant restrictions for all drivers. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, provides an overview of laws by state, which was recently updated in July 2012. You can find additional information regarding laws in your state through your state Department of Motor Vehicles.

Ten states and Washington D.C. have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving, allowing phones only to be used if a driver has a hands-free device, such as a bluetooth headset. These states include California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Washington, and West Virginia.

In addition to this, texting while driving is banned in 39 states and the use of cell phones by inexperienced drivers is restricted in 32 states.

The use of cell phones by bus drivers is also banned in the majority of states.

Despite the data showing the dangers of using a cell phone while driving several states have yet to pass any or only limited cell phone restrictions. Among these states are Hawaii, Florida, Montana, South Carolina, South Dakota, Missouri, and Alabama.

In some states, the use of a cell phone while driving is a primary offense meaning you can get a ticket for it with no other infractions. In others, it is a secondary offense, meaning you must also engage in another offense simultaneously, such as speeding or running a stop sign, in order to be ticketed for using your phone.

The United States falls well behind many other countries in enacting laws restricting cell phone use. Currently 40 countries have nationwide restrictions on the use of mobile devices while driving. Most of these outright ban it. Some of these countries include Australia, Denmark, Egypt, Russia, Switzerland, South Africa, and Zimbabwe.

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Avoiding a Ticket

It is best no matter where you are driving to try to avoid the use of your phone while you are behind the wheel of a car. If you are traveling in a state where it is against the law, it is even more important that you avoid a ticket. In order to do so some tips to follow include:

  • Completely avoid the use of your phone while driving.
  • Safely pull over off the road and put your vehicle in park to make a phone call or send a text message.
  • Use a device that allows you to talk hands-free along with voice-activated calling, and never dial your phone while driving.
  • Let the caller leave a message and return calls when you are safely parked.
  • Keep your phone in a secure holder while driving. Many holders can be mounted to your dashboard.
  • If you must talk on your phone while driving, keep your conversations short and avoid stressful or heated discussions when you are operating a vehicle.

Use of Cell Phones and Car Insurance Rates

Some car insurance companies will forgive a ticket for the use of your cell phone while driving if it is your first offense. Others will not, and many will raise rates even for a first time offender.

Even if you do not report the ticket to your car insurance company they will find out through routine driving record checks.

These record checks show any infractions even if the offense occurred outside of the state in which you live. Several companies do require you to report infractions though and not doing so could lead to even higher rates or cancellation of your car insurance policy.

The Amount Your Rates will Go Up

There are many extenuating circumstances that will help determine the amount your car insurance rates will go up. This also differs depending on the insurance provider. Insurance companies will examine your past history and look at other factors that may or may not make you fall into the category of high-risk drivers.

For example, a middle-aged woman with no prior infractions who is stopped for using her phone to make a quick call will be more likely to be forgiven or have her rates increased only minimally as opposed to a male teen driver with several other driving infractions on his record.

Insurance providers will want to look at whether or not the cell phone usage caused an accident or another infraction such as running a light to occur.

Insurance rates are also on the rise in general due to the increased number of car accidents, which correlate directly with the increased amount of time we spend on our cell phones while driving. Based on this your rates could go up due to drivers using their phones even if you were not one of them. If insurance companies lose money paying for an increased number of accidents they raise rates overall to make up for this financial loss.

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Research on Distracted Driving

Insurance companies are supported in being tough on drivers who are ticketed for using a cell phone through the research and data, which shows that these drivers are more likely to be in an accident than those driving without distractions.

The Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that distracted driving is the primary factor behind one out of every four car crashes in the United States today.

There are over 4,000 accidents each day caused by drivers who are distracted.

While some of these are due to miscellaneous distractions such as eating or grooming while driving, changing radio stations, or operating a GPS unit, most are due to the use of cell phones to call or send a text message while driving.

The Insurance Information Institute also describes a study done in December 2011 by the U.S. Transportation Department showing that there were 3,092 fatalities in 2010 alone directly related to distraction while driving.

Companies are being encouraged to enact policies that keep employees off business-related calls while driving. Although court cases are currently rare it is possible that a company could be held liable if a driver causes an accident while using their phone for company-related business.

Furthermore, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) calls distracted driving an epidemic in this country and has recently released research showing that drivers using mobile devices cause 1.6 million auto crashes each year. The NHTSA encourages states without cell phone laws to enact them and is piloting a federally-funded program in California and Delaware with stricter cell phone restrictions.

The Result of Cell Phone Restrictions

Unfortunately, these laws currently may not do much good. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released findings showing little reduction in crashes related to cell phone use since the enactment of laws in many states to reduce it.

These laws are hard to enforce and while some people do get caught using their phones the majority do not. Therefore, many people ignore the laws and continue to make phone calls or send text messages while driving.

Perhaps the threat of increased rates for car insurance will help to stop people from using their cell phones while driving to talk or send text messages. While an increasing number of states are passing laws restricting this, it is wise to avoid using your cell phone while you are operating your car no matter where you are driving. By avoiding distraction, you can help to avoid an accident or other infractions and keep your driving record clean and your insurance rates low.

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