Distracted driving causing everyone's auto insurance rates to go up


New statistics show more and more drivers are taking their eyes off the road. And it's causing more than safety concerns.

This distracted driving may impact not just your safety, but your wallet too.

Distracted driving is the cause of more accidents and deaths each year. That's according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. And it's those insurance claims that are raising rates for everyone.

Drivers are paying more and auto insurance companies are losing billions of dollars.

"We are seeing problems due to distracted driving with larger claims and sometimes more serious claims," Rush Powers, president of Burke, Powers & Harty said.

On average, a driver pays $926 a year for car insurance. That's a 16% jump since 2011. Insurance experts said while teenagers are the biggest culprits of this bad habit, everyone pays the price.

"They are the larger group that's impacted by this," Powers said. "But everyone, we've had claims from all ages from distracted driving."

Johnson City police officers are stepping up patrols to try to catch people in the act.

"The list is about endless," Sgt. Jim Tallmadge said. "Anything you possibly see while you're out there on the road could be a distraction, if you allow it to be."

In 2015, distracted driving was a factor in almost 23,000 crashes out of 197 thousand across the Volunteer State. Sgt. Tallmadge reads over each crash report in Johnson City.

"You look at it and say, 'How did you miss that other vehicle?'" he said.

Tallmadge said the biggest problem is people texting behind the wheel. In 2015, Johnson City police issued 40 citations for texting while driving. Last year, that number jumped to 63. And he said those are just the people they were able to catch. Many more are guilty.

So while police ramp up their efforts, insurance experts have some simple advice.

"We encourage people not to talk or text while driving," Powers said. "It's just that simple."

By the way, in Tennessee, texting while driving carries a $50 fine. In Virginia, It's $125.

Powers said rising premiums is also caused by the price of cars. He said advanced technology is making cars more expensive to fix.

To save money, Powers suggests sticking with one company, and bundling your auto insurance with other policies like home and life insurance to get a discount.

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