New Ala. Texting Law Carries Insurance Implications

A law restricting texting while driving was approved by Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley Tuesday, and it may have insurance implications for drivers who violate the ban after it takes effect.

Fines for using a hand-held device to text behind the wheel will be $25 for first-time violators, $50 for a second offense and $75 for the third and any subsequent violations. For each violation, the law will also institute a two-point penalty against a driver’s record, which auto insurance companies may be able to view as lawful justification for insurance-rate hikes.

The law goes into effect on Aug. 1, 2012.

“Signing this bill sends a message that drivers need to focus on driving—not on sending a text,” Gov. Bentley said in a statement. “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.”

Federal officials estimate that texting behind the wheel diverts a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, meaning texting motorists going 55 mph are inattentive as they drive for what is equivalent to the length of a football field.

Rep. Jim McClendon (R-Shelby), who sponsored the state House version of the legislation, said that its finalization was a long time coming after six years of advocacy.

“[P]ersistence has finally paid off,” he said in a statement, adding that, “our highways will be safer with the passage of this law.”

The regulation makes texting while driving a primary offense, meaning police can pull over any driver they suspect is breaking the ban to issue a citation.

The law defines prohibited hand-held devices as any that are “readily removable from a vehicle and are used to write, send, or read text or data through manual input.”

The law expressly allows for use of voice-operated devices “which allow the user to send or receive a text-based communication without the use of either hand except to activate or deactivate a feature or function.”

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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