To no one's surprise, the cost of auto insurance jumped again in the Garden State. As the state attempts to relieve some of the pressure, there are a few steps drivers can take to help themselves.

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According to new data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, New Jersey motorists spent an average of $1,276 to insure their vehicles in 2010, an increase of five percent over the year prior.

"The driving factor in the rising auto insurance rates is rising medical costs, in connection with personal injury protection coverage," explained Marshall McKnight, a spokesman for the state Department of Banking and Insurance.

In New Jersey, three out of four drivers choose the $250,000 maximum for PIP coverage, which handles all post-crash medical costs. The state's maximum ranks second nationwide behind Michigan, which offers unlimited PIP coverage. Insurers said over time, the high coverage limit in New Jersey had them putting out more to pay for claims than they were taking in on premiums. In turn, higher costs are getting shifted to folks behind the wheel.

The state has adopted regulations, set to go in effect early next year, that cap reimbursement on certain medical procedures associated with personal injury protection.

"The Department believes that those new regulations are going to help exert a downward pressure on auto insurance rates," McKnight said.

He said another reason for ever-hiking auto insurance rates is the fact that New Jersey is the most densely-populated state in the nation, resulting in more claims and more accidents than many other states.

Nine out of the ten major auto insurance carriers do business in the Garden State, and according to McKnight, that is good news for New Jersey motorists.

"One of the main things that New Jersey consumers can do is shop around for auto insurance coverage, if they don't like the rates that are quoted by their current company," he explained.

For those looking to avoid such a major change, drivers can contact their current provider and do a policy review; see if any portion of the coverage can be changed to reduce the premium. Safe driving courses are also an option for savings.