Auto insurance premiums are on the rise with more distracted drivers hitting the roads and vehicle repair costs increasing.

Auto insurance rates among the lowest in Dayton area

Auto insurance premiums continue to climb for area drivers, but the Dayton area has some of the cheapest auto insurance rates in Ohio

Local drivers spend an average of $1,028 for an annual auto insurance policy. That’s $4 less than the state average and $442 less than the national average of $1,470, according a new report by The Zebra, a national company that compares auto insurance quotes.

Ohio has the sixth cheapest average auto policy in the United States, according to the report, and only the Toledo area had a lower average policy than Dayton within the Buckeye State.

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The mix of urban, suburban and rural communities and a lower population density helps keep the cost of insurance rates lower in this area. Ohio also has laws that require a negligent driver’s insurance to pay claims as opposed to no-fault states.

“The reason why our rates are so low in this area is because I think, in general, a lot of our drivers have done a better job wearing seat belts, not texting, not speeding, not having moving violations,” said Andrew Thielman, insurance agent for AAA Allied Insurance Group.

An increase in cell phone use and other distractions like alcohol and drugs across the country is causing insurance agencies to boost prices for all motorists even if they don’t have any violations. Individuals with citations can see policy increases of nearly 20 percent annually for texting while driving, 22.7 percent for running a red light, 23.2 percent for speeding and 73.9 percent for getting a DUI, said Alyssa Connolly, an analyst at The Zebra.

Those violations also affect insurance rates for three years after the citation date, Connolly said.

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“Insurance agencies barely, hardly at all, penalized distracted driving up through 2015, and in 2016 it took a massive jump,” Connolly said. “Those violations are increasing and people are making more claims because their eyes are off the road.”

In Ohio, the average auto insurance policy cost has jumped 25 percent since 2011. Nationally, it’s increased 23 percent, according to Zebra.

The cost of the average repair is also less in Dayton than other cities, helping keep insurance costs down. Dayton was recently ranked the sixth best city for car repairs in a Repair Pal study because it has the lowest average repair bill in the nation and a relatively low labor rate.

But repair costs are rising nationwide — followed by insurance hikes — as more metal pieces in vehicles are replaced with plastic and technology features are added, said Michael Wagner, president and owner of Wagner Insurance Agency with offices in Dayton, West Milton, Kettering and Lebanon.

Research from Zebra shows that anti-theft and safety technology features have little to no impact on decreasing car insurance policy prices even if they’re proven to decrease the number of collisions because of the value they add to the vehicle.

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“It’s not just a bumper anymore, it’s the whole front panel. And it’s not just the front panel, it’s all the sensors in there, the warning for someone coming up on the side or the front or the back camera. All that stuff ends up adding to claims,” Wagner said.

Auto insurance premiums are also on the rise nationally because of elevated theft, increased driving due to low gas prices, more driving distractions like texting and natural disasters.

But area motorists can still find ways to save money, including researching insurance companies every six to 12 months because they’re rates will change often, Connolly said. Staying insured without any lapses, even if changing companies, is viewed positively by insurance providers too.

Other options to save money include checking zip codes before moving, avoiding traffic violations, asking insurance providers if they offer specific discounts, using a telematics device that tracks driving safety and dropping collision coverage from vehicles older than eight or 10 years that would be valued less than a repair bill from an accident, Thielman said.

Parents can also ask for good grades discounts or send their children to 10 or 15 hours of additional driving classes to lower insurance premiums up to 25 percent, he said. Older drivers can also get a 10 to 15 percent discount for similar driving programs, Thielman said.

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