Online Auto Insurance: Calif. Bill Could Mean Higher Insurance Rates for Texters

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Recently passed bill imposes points on repeat violators’ records, which could inflate premiums

California lawmakers recently passed a bill prohibiting texting while driving that imposes point-based penalties on repeat offenders, which could end up having insurance pricing implications for those caught texting more than once, according to Online Auto Insurance.

The legislation, SB 1310, charges a point to a violator’s driving record on second and subsequent offenses. It also increases base fines from $20 to $30 for a first offense and $50 to $60 for the second and subsequent violations. Including county fees, actual costs for those violations run in the hundreds of dollars. It is now heading to Gov. Jerry Brown for further consideration.

In California, multiple points on a driving record can disqualify motorists from their state-mandated “good driver discount,” which insurers award to experienced drivers with clean records. Auto insurance carriers discount premiums by 20 percent for motorists who have clean driving records and have been licensed for at least three years, which are requirements set under the state’s Proposition 103.

However, two points or more on a driver’s record eliminates that discount, meaning premiums for that driver could jump 20 percent; a motorist with one point still qualifies as a good driver.

Last year, similar legislation from SB 1310’s sponsor, Sen. Joe Simitian (D-Palo Alto), made it to Brown’s desk but was vetoed. That bill proposed steeper fine increases: from $20 to $50 for the first violation and $50 to $100 for subsequent violations. In his veto statement, Brown said he believed the current fine structure was an appropriate deterrent to motorists texting behind the wheel.

“I’ve been in discussions with the Governor’s office, and hope to find common ground with the Governor this year,” Simitian said in a statement.

There is a range of penalties attached to recently approved bans on texting while driving. In Alabama, a two-point penalty is imposed for every offense. In West Virginia, a three-point infraction is charged on a third violation.

Ohio’s recent texting prohibition is more lax, enforcing the offense as a secondary violation that police can only cite drivers for in addition to a primary offense, and requiring no points to be added to an offender's driving record.

Idaho’s law barring drivers from texting classifies the violation as a primary offense but specifically states that it cannot lead to higher insurance rates.

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

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Charles Nguyen
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