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Distracted Driving: When Higher Auto Insurance Rates Become the Least of Your Worries

Corissa Banghart April 4, 2023

We’ve all seen it—that person in the car beside us who’s looking down at a phone, eating a cheeseburger, or even applying makeup. This makes most of us very nervous for good reason.

In an age when constant contact is expected, texting, monitoring emails and attending virtual meetings have become as natural as breathing. These activities of everyday life are fine when done behind a desk. When exercised behind the wheel of a moving vehicle, however, they constitute something entirely different — distracted driving.

You might not put distracted driving in the same category as driving while impaired. However, statistics show that distracted drivers are 23 times more likely to crash. This compares to drunk drivers with a blood alcohol count between .05 and .07, who are 6 to 17 times more likely to cause a fatal crash.

 “I Can Multitask”

While many people are confident in their ability to multitask, juggling behind the wheel of a two-ton moving object has dire consequences when missing a stop sign, a stationary vehicle or a child. Research shows that drivers who are using cell phones may be looking at but failing to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment. Teen drivers, already at higher risk due to inexperience, are three times more likely to be involved in a crash as a result of cell phone use.

Imagine driving down the road at 55 mph with your favorite song blasting on the radio and the windows rolled down. Now close your eyes, count to five and then open them. Crazy, right?  At this rate of speed, a car travels the length of a football field in just five seconds. You’re probably wondering who would be so reckless.

An astonishing 87 percent of American drivers do the equivalent of closing their eyes for five seconds every time they get behind the wheel.

Cell Phones Aren’t the Only Culprit

In Michigan, cell phone usage is associated with 10 percent of all distracted driving crashes. While this is a daunting statistic, it means that other distracting activities — like eating — should also be paused while driving even though they’re not illegal.

Know Your State’s Distracted Driving Laws

Ignorance is never a defense, but many Michigan drivers may not know how the law restricts cell phone use or realize the penalties that could result from an infraction.

Can I read, write, or text while driving in Michigan? NO
Can I text while stopped at a red light? YES
Can drivers under the age of 18 with a Level 1 or Level 2 Learner’s Permit use a cell phone if it’s in hands-free mode? NO
Can I talk or make calls on a hands-free or hand-held device while driving? YES

When it comes to distracted driving, Michigan has a primary enforcement law. 

This means that a police officer who observes you violating distracted driving laws can pull you over and issue a citation even if you didn’t commit another driving infraction. For a first offense, the fine is $100. A second offense will cost you $200. If your child violates this law while holding a Level 1 or Level 2 license, this constitutes a civil infraction and results in a fine of up to $240 and further driving restrictions. This might not seem like a hefty penalty, but if an accident results from distracted driving, it will cost you plenty more.

If you cause an accident or commit a moving violation while distracted, your insurance carrier will become aware of it. Safe driver discounts will be lost, and premium increases of over $600 a year could result. It might not shock you that both Michigan citation costs and insurance rate increases are much higher than the national averages.

If an accident caused by distracted driving results in serious injury or death, the driver is guilty of a misdemeanor and may face jail time and/or fines ranging from $500 to $2,000. Even if no one is injured, a distracted driver who causes a collision with another vehicle, person or object receives four points on a Michigan license.

Ohio’s New Distracted Driving Law

As of April 4, 2023, it is now illegal to use or hold a cell phone or electronic device in your hand, lap or other parts of the body while driving on any Ohio road. Break the law and you can get pulled over.

Can I dial a phone number, make a video call, text, record, livestream, browse the internet or play video games while driving? NO
Can I text while stopped at a traffic light? YES
Can I update my social media accounts while driving? NO
Can I report an emergency while driving? YES

Basically, doing anything that requires more than a single touch or swipe is against the law.

These rules apply to drivers over 18. Drivers under 18 are prohibited from using an electronic device at all, including hands-free features.

How You Can Prevent Distracted Driving

With lives and financial costs at stake, minimizing distracted driving benefits everyone. To ensure a safe ride:

  • Consider installing phone-blocking technology.
  • Lead by example.
  • Become an advocate for safe driving practices within your family and community.
  • Put your phone in the backseat.
  • If you must use your phone, connect to Bluetooth to use a hands-free option.

As insurance advisors, it’s our job to see risk so you see opportunity. Since any non-driving task you perform behind the wheel reduces the attention you can give to the road, put the tablet away, keep the food in the bag and drive safely. It’s better to lose five seconds of your life than lose your life in five seconds.

Contact us for more information regarding all your personal insurance needs.

For more information, please contact me directly or learn more on our Personal Risk page.

Corissa BanghartCorissa Banghart
Private Client Advisor



Note: This communication is for informational purposes only. Although every reasonable effort is made to present current and accurate information, Oswald makes no guarantees of any kind and cannot be held liable for any outdated or incorrect information. View our communications policy.