American drivers are taking their eyes off the road more than ever before — and that danger behind the wheel is now going after your wallet.
When Babette Labeij of Marina del Ray, California, wanted to add her 17-year-old daughter Nikki to the family’s car insurance policy, she was shocked to discover the new annual cost would skyrocket to $4709.
“It’s double the price. Unbelievable!” she told NBC News.
How Distracted Driving is Taking a Toll on Insurance Costs1:40
Her family is one of millions of Americans hit by the rising cost of car insurance. The cause? Distracted driving.
Since 2011, the average insurance premium has jumped 16 percent to $926. Insurance companies say the sharp spike is partly caused by more drivers distracted on their smartphones and getting into accidents.
More than 40,000 people died on the road last year — up 14 percent since 2014 — the sharpest rise in 53 years. And distraction-related deaths were up almost 9 percent in 2015, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
“We’re talking about a generation that was texting first, driving second,” Chris Mullen, Director of Technology research at State Farm, told NBC News. “When they get behind the wheel, if they’ve been watching you use the phone, if they would rather use the phone it’s gonna be hard to break that habit and get them driving safely from the get go.”
Everyone Pays the Price
And it’s not just teenage drivers. State Farm says 36 percent of all drivers text and drive — and it’s making everyone’s costs go up.
“Every American is going to pay more because of the distracted driving epidemic,” said Robert Hartwig, co-director of the Center for Risk and Uncertainty Management at the University of South Carolina. “That’s because no fault can be attributed in an accident and also because many people who are distracted driving certainly aren’t going to admit to it. So what winds up happening is these costs are imposed on the system overall. Everyone is a victim of distracted driving.”
While Labeij plans to shop around for new insurance and rework the family budget, she also wants to make sure her teenage daughter isn’t going to be part of the problem either.
“Don’t text and drive,” Labeij tells Nikki. In fact, when in the car, “Don’t use your phone at all,” she advised.
by JO LING KENT and CHIARA SOTTIS