Let's be clear: The primary reason you don't want to tempt fate by texting or using other gadgets while driving is to respect and preserve the lives of others, not to mention your own life.
But for teens who may need an extra financial nudge to keep their eyes on the road instead of the screen, the Missouri Department of Insurance is happy to oblige.
A nearly $1,700 impact
As part of the department's latest "Eyes on the Road" public service campaign, officials say that one of the state's largest auto insurance companies warns that teens involved in at-fault auto accidents can expect their rates to jump an average of 72 percent on full-coverage policies and double for liability-only coverage.
Doing the math, one distracted driving collision will raise a teen's semi-annual auto insurance rate from about $837 ($517 for liability only) to $1,394 (or $913).
Oh, and that rate increase locks in for three years, which brings the total cost of that ill-timed text message to $1,671, not including the $200 ticket that drivers under 21 face in-state if they're caught minding their gadget instead of the road.
And that's presuming their insurance company doesn't drop them immediately.
The toll of distracted driving
Missouri has plenty to worry about with teen gadget use behind the wheel, considering:
- 4 out of 5 of its auto crashes involve distracted driving.
- Teens are more likely than any other age group to be involved in an inattentive auto fatality.
- In 2012 alone, 421,000 Missourians were injured in distracted-driving accidents, more than the population of St. Louis.
- People who check their phones are three times as likely to be involved in an accident than those who don't.
- At 55 miles per hour, in the five seconds it takes for an average text, a driver's eyes leave the road for the distance of a football field.
"Not only can distracted driving cost lives, it also can cost you thousands of dollars in higher insurance premiums," according to Missouri insurance director John Huff. "This is money that could have been spent on college, a vacation, or a down payment on a home. Even if no one was hurt, that accident can have substantial financial consequences."
Here's a clever way to use a gadget to make your teen's vehicle a text-free zone.
Follow me on Twitter: @omnisaurus
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Veteran contributing editor Jay MacDonald is co-author of "Future Millionaires' Guidebook."