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Will a Distracted Driving Ticket Make It Harder to Get Insurance?

Young driver looking at cellphone behind the wheel of car

It might be surprising to learn that getting a distracted driving conviction might lead to an insurer denying auto insurance coverage but, that’s what happened to an Edmonton man. The driver got a ticket for distracted driving in 2018. However, he didn’t realize the ramifications until he went to renew his auto insurance. That’s when he was told that auto insurers would deny him comprehensive and collision coverage. Furthermore, when the man and his wife called other insurers, they were told the same thing. The distracted driving conviction is leading to insurance denials despite the man having only one other ticket. So, what can you do if it happens to you?

Collision and Comprehensive Aren’t Mandatory in Alberta

For Albertans, they should know that legislation allows insurers to only issue liability and accident benefit coverage. Liability coverage is the part of insurance that protects a driver if they injure other drivers and/or cause damage to them, their vehicles, and personal property.

The accident benefits coverage is what drivers use for payment if they require medical treatment. And, for the rest? Collision and comprehensive? It’s not mandatory. Meaning an insurer can deny a driver if they have a distracted driving conviction.

Drivers Can’t Lease or Finance Vehicles Without Collision and Comprehensive

Collision and comprehensive are both optional coverage for drivers but necessary to protect them if there’s an accident. It’s a required coverage for drivers that lease their vehicle or finance it as they don’t own the vehicle.

Collision coverage will give them protection for their vehicle if they hit another driver’s car or a street sign, for example. While comprehensive covers damage to the vehicle from severe weather, fire, vandalism or a break-in. Without collision and comprehensive, vehicles are not covered for these issues. That means if you do suffer damage or a loss - you're on the hook to pay for it.

You will not be approved for leasing or financing without collision and comprehensive coverage as the lease or finance company requires the vehicle to be fully protected.

Help for Drivers with Distracted Driving Convictions

Because insurers are within their rights to deny collision and comprehensive to drivers with distracted driving convictions, drivers need advice on where to turn. Insurers are taking measures to limit their losses and drivers can expect premiums to increase by 15 to 25 percent if insurers don’t deny them coverage outright.

Even if you are turned down by some companies, you will likely be able to find coverage from a "high risk" insurer, albeit at a higher rate.

Steps to Help Drivers Avoid Distracted Driving Convictions

Most insurers will treat distracted driving as a major conviction, not a minor one. And, for drivers worried about being charged with distracted driving there’s a lot they can do.

Don’t do anything that makes it look like you’re using your phone in your vehicle.

In 2017, a woman with a perfectly clean record got a distracted driving ticket at a red light for plugging her phone in while the vehicle was still running. Her future premiums were quoted with a 15 percent increase when she tried to renew her policy.

Pullover so you don’t get pulled over.

In Edmonton, officers have given out over 5,200 tickets for distracted driving this year. Last year, they gave out 7,739 tickets for distracted driving. And, alarmingly, about 23,000 drivers received tickets within the first three months of 2019. That means officers are cracking down on distracted driving.

Here are a few tips:

  • Ensure you have all your directions and maps in place before you start your vehicle.
  • Send any emails and text messages and complete all your phone calls before you start driving. If you’re lost, pull over first and turn your vehicle off before reaching for your phone.
  • Consider leaving your phone in your briefcase or purse so you’re not tempted to reach for it in traffic.
  • If there’s an emergency, like a sick child at school, pull over and turn your vehicle completely off before using your phone.
  • If you’re driving to meet with someone, let them know you’ll call them back in 10 minutes or 30 minutes, so you don’t get caught with your phone while your vehicle is running.

Talk to your insurer.

Ask if you can still receive collision and comprehensive through your current insurer because you’ve been with them for a long period. A new insurer might deny you outright. However, your current insurer has your driving record, claims data and other details. And, they want your business.

Don't drive distracted

At the end of the day, the best way to avoid being charged with distracted driving is simple: don't drive distracted. In 2016, more people were killed or injured by distracted drivers on Canadian roads than any other infringement. A conviction is viewed seriously by insurance companies because it is dangerous and makes you a high-risk driver. Stiff fines, license suspension and higher insurance are just part of the reason it is important for drivers to put their phone down while behind the wheel.