As part of its ongoing public education campaign, the Pennsylvania Insurance Fraud Prevention Authority (IFPA) has created new consumer education messages including broadcast radio and digital video which premiere statewide in mid-September.

According to IFPA executive director Tom Donahue, insurers across the state have been seeing a rise in claims related to distracted driving, including a rise in suspicious claims that result from drivers trying to cover up the real cause of a costly accident.

The scenario is reflected in the IFPA’s new “See How They Lie” video, in which a young woman starts watching a funny video on her smartphone while driving – and hits another vehicle. When she makes up a false story for her insurance company, she learns about the consequences of insurance fraud.

“When drivers take their focus off the road, lives and property are put at risk. When drivers lie to their insurance companies about what happened, they’re committing an additional serious crime,” said Donahue. “We want consumers to be aware that letting one bad decision lead to another bad decision does not improve their situation.”

In Pennsylvania‚ insurance fraud is a felony‚ punishable by up to seven years in prison and up to $15‚000 in fines. According to the Insurance Information Institute, property-casualty fraud totals about $32 billion each year. The National Insurance Crime Bureau estimates that insurance fraud losses directly cost the average consumer $200-$300 per year in premium increases.

Distracted driving includes behaviors like talking on the phone, programming a GPS and attending to children and pets while at the wheel, but smartphone usage plays an increasing role in the problem.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the rate of drivers texting at any moment during the day is rising, especially among younger drivers. In 2015, 2.2 percent of all drivers and 4.9 percent of drivers estimated to be 16-24 years old were observed texting or otherwise manipulating hand-held devices. That’s a 267 percent increase from 0.6 percent in 2009 for all drivers and a 345 percent increase from 1.1 percent in 2009 for drivers 16-24 years old.

State Farm’s most recent survey on distracted driving reports that smartphone ownership has significantly increased since 2013. Nearly all adults under 40 years of age reported having a smartphone in 2015. Nearly 70 percent of those 65 or older have a smartphone, an increase of 30 percentage points since 2013.

More than 94 percent surveyed indicated that sending and/or reading text messages was at least somewhat distracting, yet 36 percent reported text messaging while driving. Twenty-nine percent report accessing the Internet while driving, and 21 percent read social media while driving. Two in 10 reported taking pictures with their phone while driving.

Despite these trends, the State Farm survey also reported that consequences do matter: Drivers who regularly text behind the wheel say they are most likely to be deterred from texting if they cause a crash, face financial and/or legal consequences or get caught by police.

The IFPA’s ongoing statewide prevention campaign depicts real-life scenarios of people who are contemplating or involved in committing insurance fraud. The campaign has become a national model used in 33 other states and received the 2017 Innovation Torchbearer Award from the Insurance Marketing & Communications Association.

To view the new video, “Lying In Lansdowne,” visit www.seehowtheylie.com

The IFPA was created in 1994 by the Pennsylvania General Assembly through Act 166, Pennsylvania’s Insurance Fraud Prevention Act, to arm law enforcement with the resources necessary to fight insurance fraud in the Commonwealth.

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Report Insurance Fraud!

This website provides a listing of law enforcement agencies that fight fraud. To report anonymously, consumers can call the National Insurance Crime Bureau’s tip line at 1-800-TEL-NICB or the IFPA’s tip line at 1-888-565-IFPA.