Smartphone use drives increase in auto insurance rates

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Traffic accidents in the U.S. are on the rise, and a study shows that auto insurance rates are increasing steadily and proportionally, possibly caused by a profound upswing in the use of smartphones behind the wheel.

According to a new study by major U.S. auto-insurer State Farm Mutual Automobile Insurance Co., 36% of all people the company surveyed in 2015 admitted to texting behind the wheel, while 29% didn’t hide that they have browsed the web while driving – an alarming increase over numbers from previous surveys.

It’s “an epidemic issue for this country,” said Michael LaRocco, chief executive of State Auto Financial Corp., at an insurance-industry conference last month.

The overall number of smartphone owners taking part in State Farm’s surveys has also increased substantially over the last years – from 52% in 2011, to 88% in 2015.

The connection between distracted drivers on the road, more widespread smartphone usage, and the rising numbers of traffic accidents is yet to become clear, but researchers claim that the scope of the problem may be broader than we expect, as many of the drivers involved in traffic accidents rarely admit to behind-the-wheel phone use.

However, there are many other factors that may be affecting the alarming trend. Lower gas prices and the U.S. economic recovery are putting more drivers and vehicles on the road every day, which in and of itself leads to more traffic accidents.

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