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5 driving habits that can raise your car insurance rates

Linda Melone

What’s your worst driving habit? Maybe you’re running late in the morning and wind up speeding to work. Or perhaps you apply makeup while you’re stopped at red lights. Worse yet, you use your commute to catch up on text messages. Any of these bad habits can raise your crash risk and result in an increase in your car insurance premium.

Here are five of the most common bad driving habits that you should kick to the curb.

1. You drive in the left lane, even if you’re moving slower than traffic.

One slow motorist in the left lane can tie traffic up for dozens of others on the road, says John Bowman, a spokesman for the National Motorists Association, an advocacy group for drivers. “Most states have lane courtesy – or ‘keep right’ – laws that deem such action to be an infraction, regardless of whether the offending driver is traveling within the posted speed limit.”

Although slow and fast lanes don’t actually exist, slower traffic is expected to keep to the right in at least 21 states, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Safer habit: Stay right to keep traffic moving and for a safer traffic flow, Bowman says.

2. You’re always running late and often speed to work.

A ticket for driving over the posted speed limit adds points to your driving record, which can raise your insurance rates. The number of miles over the speed limit determines the cost of the ticket and its effect on your insurance rates.

“In Florida, if you’re caught going 20 miles per hour over the posted speed limit, the police can take your license on the spot,” says Rose Marshburn, personal lines specialist at SIA Group, an independent insurance agency in North Carolina.

The number of points you accumulate for speeding determines how much your insurance rates will go up, according to Marshburn.

Safer habit: Set a timer on your phone 15 minutes before you need to leave, says Elizabeth Lombardo, author of “A Happy You: Your Ultimate Prescription for Happiness.” Lombardo says: “This allows you five minutes to finish what you are doing and get out the door 10 minutes early.”

3. You use your commute to finish your morning routine.

Trying to save time by using your rear-view mirror to freshen up — applying rouge or shaving your face, for instanced — can cause a car crash. Applying makeup while driving ranks among the top five in-the-car activities (aside from driving) that boost the risk of a crash.

Three-fourths of women who have crashed while applying makeup are under age 27, says Kevin Alsup, vice president of insurance at Foundation Financial Group in Florida.

Safer habit: Use the time-saving tip from our habitually late friend in No. 2 and allocate time accordingly for your morning routine. Rather than running the risk or poking your eye out with a mascara brush or nicking your face with a razor, simply get ready at home.

4. You catch up on texts while driving.

The Virginia Tech Transportation Institute found that among all handheld distractions, texting while driving is the most harmful. It’s no wonder that more than 3,000 people were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver in 2010.

Texting while driving has become such a serious problem that police in many places can check off a “texting” box on accident reports, Alsup says.

Safer habit: Before you hop into your car, lock your cellphone in the trunk so you’re not tempted to text, Lombardo recommends.

5. Your temper flares when you’re stuck in traffic.

Dealing with traffic problems can be aggravating, especially when you’re in a hurry. But reacting to them with anger can get you in heaps of trouble. The difference between “aggressive driving” and “road rage” – based on federal definitions – is that “aggressive driving” is a traffic offense and “road rage” is a criminal offense.

Aggressive driving may involve excessive lane changing and speeding, while road rage involves an assault with a motor vehicle. According to Alsup, if your road rage results in an injury to another person, you can be charged with a felony.

Safer habit: Practice deep breathing or listen to soothing music. “Or instead of music, try listening to audio books when you’re stuck in traffic,” Lombardo says. “You can learn something new and be entertained.”

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