State still has highest auto insurance in nation

| 21 Feb 2012 | 10:51

    NEW JERSEY-New Jersey still has the highest car insurance rates in the country, but the national group that tracks insurers now concedes it's unfair to compare the state with places that have far fewer drivers and less congested roads. The state is predominantly urban and results are not comparable with states with large rural areas, according to the report from the National Association of Auto Insurance Commissioners. The report uses data from 2002. While the report no longer gives rankings, it still shows New Jersey with the highest premiums nationwide with an average annual premium of $1,112.86, an increase of $85 over the prior year. Nationally, the average annual premium was $773.68. "Due to the costs associated with the urban-type driving conditions in New Jersey, it will never have the lowest auto insurance premiums in the country,'' said David Snyder, vice president of the American Insurance Association. In 2002, New Jersey drivers traveled more than 68 billion miles and the state logged more than 300,000 accidents, the report found. The national average for accidents is 131,400 per state. The ranking system was abandoned after some insurance regulators said it wasn't fair to look at a state like New Jersey in the same way as a place like Montana. Northeast states like New York, Massachusetts, and Connecticut are regularly among the top states in auto insurance costs. States may also vary greatly in the way they calculate premium costs, regulators said. "I think they were concerned with the fact that each state did not have the same auto insurance environment because of different laws in each state,'' said Ann Womer Benjamin, the Ohio Insurance director and member of task force that wrote the report. ``Comparing them no longer made sense.'' For example, in New Jersey policyholders often get money back as dividends, but that money is not counted in the rankings. Some of the state's largest insurers, including State Farm, have paid back two to four times the national average in dividends. New Jersey Banking and Insurance Commissioner Holly Bakke said the report also doesn't reflect recent changes made to the state's auto insurance laws that have brought in two new insurers, Mercury General and GEICO. "While the information is more useful, it's still two years old and doesn't reflect improvements for policyholders in New Jersey in 2004,'' said Bakke.