Insurance companies say smartphone use is a contributing factor in rising auto insurance rates.

The Washington state Insurance Commissioner's Office said auto insurance rates increased by an average of 5.9 percent in 2016 among the top 20 Washington insurance companies.

Nationally, the average premium rose to $926 in 2016 according to the Insurance Information Institute, an increase of 16 percent over five years.

Insurance companies said the higher premiums are needed to cover claims related to an increasing number of accidents.

Related: Auto base rate changes for top 20 Washington companies

In a new study, the Washington Traffic Safety Commission found cell phone use is the greatest form of driving distraction and added that texting increases a driver's accident risk by 23 times.

Meanwhile, 36 percent of Americans admit to texting and driving, and so, insurance companies argue it's no surprise the US has seen an increase in deadly accidents.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said fatal crashes increased by roughly 7 percent in 2015.

"Insurers believe there is a correlation between distracted drivers and cell phone use in particular. Remember, it's not just fatalities going up. It's all auto collisions are going up," said Kenton Brine, president of the NW Insurance Council. "So, for insurers that are measuring costs, they are looking at not just the most tragic accidents but the minor fender benders too where people hit a tree, or curb, or something that causes damage to their vehicle."

Any insurance rate increases in Washington state are evaluated and approved by the Insurance Commissioner.

Brine said consumers could do their part to slow premium increases by putting their cell phones down while driving.

He also added that consumers who face a rate increase do have options.

"If you do see a rate increase, it's a good idea to shop around, and if you don't like the rate you are getting, there might be another company out there that might be better for you," Brine said.

Drivers in Washington might have added incentive to put their phones down if a distracted driving bill successfully reaches Governor Jay Inslee's desk. It would double the fines for those caught texting and driving.

Related: Distracted driving penalties could increase statewide