Online Auto Insurance: New Ala. Law Shows Range of U.S. Texting Bans

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Newly approved law brings point penalties against driving record with each offense.

Alabama’s governor finalized a law this week that restricts texting behind the wheel, highlighting a long-running effort to bring the state in line with most others in the U.S. that prohibit texting while driving in a range of ways, according to Online Auto Insurance.

The state’s ban is unique in that it institutes a two-point penalty to driving records for every offense, meaning insurers can raise insurance rates and premiums on drivers with marked records. A similar ban recently passed in West Virginia mandates that violators be charged three points to their driving record on the third offense, according to the legislation, named SB 211.

Texting bans in some other states are looser and without point-based penalties. For example, cheap car insurance in Texas won’t get any pricier due to texting tickets or citations because the state only restricts texting for school bus drivers with passengers, vehicles in school crossing zones and teenagers under 18 years old. Texas is one of three states prohibiting school bus drivers from texting and one of five prohibiting novice drivers from texting.

In fact, Gov. Rick Perry called a push to ban texting for all drivers statewide “a government effort to micromanage the behavior of adults” when he vetoed last year's legislation. According to a June 2011 press release on his veto, Perry stated that “the keys to dissuading drivers of all ages from texting while driving are information and education.”

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley had the opposite take on the state’s recently finalized law when he approved it on May 8, releasing a statement saying, “there is nothing so urgent that it is worth risking your life, or the lives of others, by sending a text message while you are driving down the road."

Fines under the new law will be $25 on a first offense, $50 on a second offense and $75 for a third and subsequent offense, with each offense bringing the two-point penalty. But the monetary penalties could be higher if Alabama drivers' insurance companies catch wind of the offense.

The law goes into effect Aug. 1 and will be enforced as a primary offense, meaning that police can pull over any suspected violator to issue a citation.

Source: http://governor.alabama.gov/news/news_detail.aspx?ID=6435

Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 38 states and the District of Columbia, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Seven states have no statewide texting bans at all: Montana, South Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Florida, Arizona and Hawaii. In Hawaii, hand-held and texting bans are instituted at county levels.

Before Alabama’s texting bans, the most recent states to pass similar laws were Idaho and West Virginia, where governors there signed off on legislation last month.

When it finalized its ban, West Virginia also became one of 10 states prohibiting use of any hand-held device while driving. The others are California, Connecticut, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Oregon and Washington.

The patchwork of laws and enforcement measures around texting and hand-held device use while driving show that even seemingly simple public safety issues are not a given in the political world.

Alabama’s texting ban was a long-running legislative effort, according to Representative Jim McClendon (R-Shelby), a sponsor of House Bill 2. McClendon said the bill's finalization came after it spent four years in the House and two years in the Senate.

OAI recommends that motorists research and stay up-to-date on what laws are currently active in their state and municipality, as areas without statewide texting bans may still have some sort of prohibition at county levels.

For more on this and insurance-related issues, head to http://www.onlineautoinsurance.com/texas/ for access to an easy-to-use quote-comparison generator and informative resource pages.

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