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Orange County Register: Caught texting and driving? Insurers mostly shrug, raise rates 16 percent

From the OC Register: "Insurance companies are finally putting a price on the risk of distracted driving, and it’s relatively cheap.

Last year, a ticket for using a mobile phone while driving added $226 to the average insurance policy, an increase of 16 percent, according to a new analysis from Zebra, a Texas-based startup that helps consumers weigh insurance rates. That’s up from just $23 in the span of two years, but still a lot less than some other violations.

Underwriters deem a range of relatively innocuous incidents and conditions far more dangerous. Driving too slowly, for instance, draws an average premium penalty of $345 a year, while passing a school bus will cost an additional $386 a year. Being old or being young is pricey, too; 80-year-old drivers pay about 22 percent more than the average driver, while 18-year-olds (or their parents) have to fork over almost three times the national average for coverage.

“The distracted penalty was shocking to us,” said Alyssa Connolly, Zebra’s director of market insights. “It seems incredibly low. ” And I don’t think most people know you can even get a ticket for driving too slowly.”

Underwriters seem skeptical of safety technology as well. On average, U.S. auto insurers won’t reduce rates for vehicles that have blind-spot warnings, heads-up displays and systems to monitor driver alertness, according to the survey.

Nobody, including federal safety regulators, has any decent idea yet how many people are using phones at the wheel” and how many accidents that behavior precipitates. That said, traffic fatalities have spiked in sync with smartphone adoption.But unlike driving while drunk, an ill-advised text is tough to spot from a police cruiser, and accident report forms in many states still lack boxes in which an investigator can tag a crash catalyst as distraction."

Portland personal injury lawyer Charley Gee
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