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It makes a sound – the chime of an incoming text, the song of a pre-programmed ringtone, the bling of a game notification.  What do most people do?  They look at the little device to see what the heck is new or answer the call.  It is so easy to do and almost everyone has programmed their brains to do this as soon as possible.  What is the harm, right?

Distracted driving accidents have risen since these devices have become more and more integrated into our daily lives.  Washington and Oregon have passed laws making the use of a mobile, handheld device while driving a ticket-able offense.  What does this mean for you and your auto insurance?

In Washington, the ticket is called “Driving Under the Influence of Electrical Device” or DUI-E.  A standard DUI requires the ticketed driver to obtain an SR-22 filing, which needs to be kept in place for a set number of years.  Carriers that prefer good drivers will not offer the SR-22 filing, which means rewriting your auto policy to another carrier at a higher cost.  The ticket will remain on the driver’s record for 3 years and the insurance carrier will rate for it all three years.  If the ticket falls off the record in the middle of the policy term, the carrier will rate for the ticket until the end of the policy term.  The SR-22 filing is a policy fee that is fully earned each policy term.  The state requires the insurance carrier to report the filing every time the policy is renewed, cancelled, or reinstated.  The state DOES NOT communicate back to the insurance carrier that the driver no longer needs the filing.  It is on the driver to report to their insurance agent/carrier when they no longer need this filing.

In Oregon, the ticket is called “Distracted Driving” and has two levels:  Contributing to a Crash and Not Contributing to a Crash.  The fines increase with each ticket, with the third offense leading to jail time.  Although the first offense fines for non-contributing to a crash tickets may be waived, the violation will remain on the offender’s record – again for three years.  The effect on the driver’s insurance is an increase in rate for the violation and the violation will be rated for until the end of the policy term after the 3 years have elapsed.  Carriers that prefer good drivers may elect not to renew the driver’s policy if more than one violation occurs in the household during the three years it takes for the one driver’s ticket to age off their record.

It is important to note that both states still allow the hands-free and built-in devices to be used.

Best thing to do to avoid the tickets is to turn the device off when you enter the vehicle.  Next best is to have and use the hands-free modes.  Almost all newer model cars have the ability to sync the device to the vehicle.  Car audio shops sell and install these systems in vehicles that don’t come off the assembly line with them.  I personally got an estimate for the installation on my car for $250.00, which is less than the fine for the ticket in either state.

Still have questions?  We welcome the opportunity to talk with you.

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