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Texting to Distraction: How States Are Cracking Down on Texting Behind the Wheel in 2015

By now we know better. Texting while driving is not only unsafe, but illegal. In fact, according to a January 5, 2015 report from the Claims Journal, there are only six states in the Union without a driver texting ban in place.

However the data tells us that the potential for injury, loss of life and/or trouble with the law has not proven to be enough of a deterrent to change behavior., a website sponsored by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) provides a number of statistics which underscore the problem's prevalence. For example, "At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010." Perhaps unsurprisingly, the younger the driver, the more likely he or she is to be using an electronic device behind the wheel. According to the same site, "Drivers in their 20s make up 27 percent of the distracted drivers in fatal crashes."

In a 24/7 world where time is at a premium, multi-tasking often trumps safety, especially given the human tendency to believe, "It won't happen to me." Accordingly, police forces in states across the nation are adopting new techniques to identify and discipline distracted drivers before damage occurs. And these techniques could have a big impact on your driving record - and automobile insurance coverage.

Getting High 

Traditional police cruisers (sedan vehicle types) are the wrong height for assessing the activity of drivers of commercial trucks and sport utility vehicles. But as the saying goes, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. To that end, states such as New York and Tennessee are deploying vehicles of similar make and model - the better to catch texters in the act.  US PL Text and Drive call out

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo is particularly committed to rooting out the dangers of distracted driving, ensuring that infractions show up on a driver's permanent record, with potential implications for insurability. Per the state's website, "Under [a November 2014] law, new and young drivers convicted of texting-while-driving will have their license suspended for 120 days on the first offense, and revoked for a year if convicted of a second or subsequent offense within six months of reissuance of the license."

View from the Top 

When the increased visibility offered by a taller vehicle still isn't enough, some states are reaching higher. Per the Connecticut Department of transportation website, the state "was the only one in the nation to receive $2.3 million in federal Distracted Driving prevention funds from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).  Connecticut's strong laws and policies aimed at keeping driver's eyes on the road and hands on the wheel made the state eligible for this funding source."

Some of the allocated funds will be directed at a highway overpass "spotter" program which will allow law enforcement to monitor distracted driving violators from bridges and other raised vantage points. The spotters gather enough general information to radio nearby patrolmen who issue the citation. Naturally, Connecticut insurers are certain to leverage infractions when setting renewal rates for the state's drivers.

The Texting Detector? 

The need to catch and discipline distracted drivers who generate a variety of road risks is on its way to provoking a technological cottage industry. A company called ComSonics in the state of Virginia is reportedly developing a radar gun-like device that's attracting the attention of law enforcement and insurance carriers alike.

If successful, the device is designed to detect the radio frequencies emitted from a vehicle when a driver uses a cellphone. Though skeptics wonder how the tool would be able to discern the difference between call and text usage, if accurate, it could become a powerful weapon in identifying distracted drivers, punishing them with fines, and later, higher insurance premiums.

It's clear that awareness campaigns about the dangers of texting and driving, combined with harrowing statistics and anecdotal accounts of loss and life and property, have proven only marginally effective in reducing road hazards resulting from distracted drivers. As a result the laws get tougher, the states get more creative and entrepreneurs look for ways to turn safety in a moneymaking business. All of this is guaranteed to have an impact on the near and long-term future insurability of violators. Texting while driving has always been a bad idea, a dangerous threat to life and property. But in 2015, ignoring common sense could carry new and significant legal and insurance coverage liabilities.

Contact a HUB advisor to learn more