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RALEIGH – North Carolina Insurance Commissioner Mike Causey announced in late March he had settled with the N.C. Rate Bureau for an overall average rate increase of 1.6 percent on personal auto insurance.

The NCRB, which is not a part of the Department of Insurance and represents insurance companies writing policies in North Carolina, had requested an average 7.6 percent increase in a Feb. 1 filing.

As part of the settlement, the NCRB has agreed not to seek a further increase in rates until 2021.

Physical damage costs (comprehensive and collision insurance) will see a decrease of 9.1 percent. Liability insurance will see an increase of 11.3 percent, resulting in the average 1.6 percent increase. The new rates take effect Oct. 1.

Causey said that distracted driving has gained momentum as a leading cause of accidents, putting an upward pressure on insurance rates.

“Getting motorists to focus on their driving and not get distracted while at the wheel would go a long way toward further holding down the cost of auto insurance,” Causey said.

To combat distracted driving, Commissioner Causey is backing House Bill 144, the Hands-Free NC Act, which would allow cell phone use by motorists with hands-free devices.

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