Proposed Florida Texting Ban Carries Insurance Implications

The full Florida Senate could soon have a chance to vote on a bill that would prohibit drivers from sending and reading text messages from behind the wheel.

Florida is among the eight remaining states that currently have no restrictions on motorists’ use of cell phones while driving, despite growing awareness of the dangers of driver distraction and recent pushes from insurance companies and the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) to get as many states as possible to ban the practice.

One more committee has to approve the proposed legislation before it moves on to a vote from the full Senate.

The bill is modeled after a sample law made available by the DOT. A first violation of the ban would result in a $30 fine, plus court costs. A second violation would bring a $60 fine.

But even though those fines are relatively low, it’s likely that motorists who get caught texting while driving would feel financial repercussions in the form of higher car insurance rates if they’re caught more than once or get into an accident while texting.

That’s because the legislation would make it so that offenses after the first instance would be considered moving violations, which means they would likely show up on the offending motorist’s driving history–a resource practically all insurers examine before setting rates.

If insurers consider texting while driving to be a high-risk practice, motorists with those offenses on their records would likely see higher prices the next time they compare auto insurance quotes.

Drivers who get a second conviction of texting while driving would get three points added to their record. That’s the equivalent of getting a conviction for speeding less than 15 mph over the limit or making an improper lane change.

But what really could get costly is if the texting helps contribute to an accident.

Motorists who get into an accident are likely to see higher rates as it is. But if the bill is signed into law, drivers who crash while texting would get six points added to their records.

That’s the equivalent of leaving the scene of a crash.

Drivers would only be able to get cited for texting while driving as a secondary violation, meaning police would need to be pulling the driver over for a reason other than suspicion of texting from behind the wheel.

The bill says that cell phone billing records and testimony from “appropriate authorities receiving such messages” would be admissible as evidence when the citations are disputed.

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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