PALM HARBOR, Fla. -- People who live near U.S. 19 in Pinellas County are seeing their car insurance rates spike as much as 25 percent, even if they haven’t received a ticket or gotten into a car crash.
The reason: they live close to a high risk road. There have been 9,340 crashes along the Pinellas County stretch of U.S. 19 in just the past five years, according to Florida Highway Patrol.
Thanks to a triple whammy: More people, more crashes and more uninsured drivers, rates are also spiking across Florida. We found out Hillsborough County is also home to several areas considered “high risk” by insurance companies: neighborhoods near Dale Mabry Highway, I-275 and Fowler Avenue.
“It’s insane. it really is crazy,” Michael Beattie, a Palm Harbor resident, explained. Beattie has seen his car insurance rates double in the last few years.
Debbie Welch, who also lives in Palm Harbor, has seen a 25% increase on her car insurance bill. “I’m livid. I’m livid! I open up my insurance bill and I’m like ‘What? Are you kidding me’?”
Both Beattie and Welch have clean driving records. “And yet, we’re the ones stuck, stuck paying the high rates for the high risk drivers,” Beattie said with a sigh.
Insurance agent Tricia MacGregor is flooded with customers calling about the rate increases.
“Especially during renewal time,” she explained, “Being an independent agency, we rerun them through all the other companies that we have available but they’ve all had the same sort of rate increase and we can’t offer anything lower.”
Since Beattie and Welch, and thousands of people in Pinellas County live near US 19, the rates have skyrocketed due to the number of car accidents in just the past five years. In that time, 56 people have died and 2,845 have been injured in car crashes, according to FHP.
Beattie and Welch both live within two miles of it.
Insurance agents tell ABC Action News one option to reduce your rate : ask your carrier about a small defensive driving device that you can install under your steering wheel. It monitors how hard you brake, how much you accelerate, and you can get a discount just for trying it out.
MacGregor says insurance companies don’t use the device against you and information stored on it cannot be presented in court. She recommends trying it out to see if it can save you money on your premiums.