Insurance

Warning: Auto rate hikes coming for accident-prone Mississippians

SUN HERALD FILE 
 A Mississippi Highway Patrol officer cites a speeding motorist on Miss. 603 in Hancock County. Mississippi is on the lower end of average insurance rate increases for motorists caught driving 31 mph or more over the speed limit, but that could soon change because of the state's high accident rate per insured driver.
SUN HERALD FILE A Mississippi Highway Patrol officer cites a speeding motorist on Miss. 603 in Hancock County. Mississippi is on the lower end of average insurance rate increases for motorists caught driving 31 mph or more over the speed limit, but that could soon change because of the state's high accident rate per insured driver. THE SUN HERALD

Accident-prone drivers could boost insurance rates

Mississippi moved up to No. 6 in the nation for automobile-repair costs and accident claims, which means insurance carriers will be requesting rate hikes of 10 to 20 percent within the next two months, Insurance Commissioner Mike Chaney said Tuesday.

He said the vice president of the trade association Property Casualty Insurers Association of America recently delivered the news.

"I was kind of like a deer in the headlights when they told me this," Chaney said. "I didn't think Mississippi would move up. We knew there was a good possibility we would see increases that would be 5 to 10 percent."

He said his department will have to determine what rate hikes are justified for individual carriers before adjusting them.

Lack of enforcement of the state's texting-while-driving law and cell phones that are not hands-free are two big reasons for the increase in accidents, he said. He also said Mississippi has some of the highest costs in the nation for auto repairs, which account for a third of the cost of insurance.

Chaney said Mississippi was not even in the top 10 for accident claims when he was last given numbers in September.

A recent study by insuranceQuotes.com, an insurance-shopping website, found Mississippi had some of the lowest average rate hikes in the nation for people caught driving 31 mph or more over the speed limit; driving recklessly; or driving under the influence.

Mississippians driving 31 mph hour or more over the speed limit faced an average rate hike of 19.5 percent, the study found. The rate increase projected for reckless driving was 38 percent. For a DUI or DWI, drivers paid an average of 38 percent more for auto insurance.

Out of 50 states and the District of Columbia, the insuranceQuotes study found, Mississippi ranked 35th for excessive speeding rate hikes, 43rd for reckless driving increases and 45th for DUI rate hikes.

Chaney said the latest news from PCI could change those percentages for the worse. "It's pretty serious," he said.

Meanwhile, he is hoping more enforcement will help lower the state's accident rate.

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