Florida Seeks Texting-While-Driving Ban with New Legislation

A recently introduced bill in the Florida House of Representatives seeks to ban texting behind the wheel and attach point-based penalties for texters who cause crashes because they were driving distracted.

HB 13 was introduced by Reps. Doug Holder and Ray Pilon, both Republicans representing Sarasota. The legislation classifies the offense as a secondary violation, meaning a motorist can be pulled over and cited for it only in addition to a primary violation like speeding.

The bill also establishes a six-point penalty for “unlawful use of a wireless communications device” that leads to a crash; that point-based penalty is one of harshest in the state’s vehicle code and puts the violation on par with leaving the scene of a crash or causing a crash because of speeding.

A driver’s license with 12 or more points is subject to suspension for up to a year. If approved, the bill would take effect Oct. 1, 2013.

A companion bill with identical language, SB 52, is moving through the state Senate after being filed there in mid-November; it was moved to several Senate committees for further consideration on Dec. 5.

Gov. Rick Scott favored exploration into the impact of texting while driving when he suggested in November that a study be conducted into its effects on traffic fatalities, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Federal entities have spearheaded a long-term effort against distracted driving behaviors like texting behind the wheel and say that texting creates a crash risk that’s 23 times worse than driving without distractions.

Analysis Reveals Range of Insurance Penalties for Texting While Driving

Most states prohibit all their drivers from texting while driving; if approved, the bill would make Florida the 40th state with such a ban. However, enforcement of such prohibitions vary between not only states, but also insurers.

The points that would be applied under the Florida proposal, if approved, can not only lead to license suspensions and fines, but also spikes in premiums. Insurance carriers sometimes consider moving violations and the points attached to them as justification for raising rates on policyholders.

This summer, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo touted the impact of distracted driving laws, which he said yielded tens of thousands of citations in the state. Part of those laws stiffened penalties, including one charging three points to a driving record for each violation; Florida’s proposal to charge six points applies only if the texting violation is linked to an accident.

In an analysis from OnlineAutoInsurance.com, we compared coverage prices for drivers with and without texting tickets and found that some insurers adjust their quotes right out of the gate if a driver has one on record:
–At one insurer, a texting ticket increased insurance rates by 10.5 percent overall.
–At the second insurer, a texting ticket increased insurance rates by 9.1 percent overall.
–At the third insurer, a texting violation did not show any impact on insurance quotes.

About Ben Zitney
Benjamin Zitney has been covering the auto insurance industry for the past 2.5 years. Before coming to Online Auto Insurance News, he produced an extensive company history of the 30-year-old California Joint Powers Insurance Authority and worked at the Cal State Long Beach Daily Forty-Niner as a reporter, copy editor and news editor.

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