OAI: Car Insurance Implications of Possible Nationwide Cell-Phone Ban Unclear

December 22, 2011 (PRLEAP.COM) Business News
Just what will happen as a result of a federal agency's recent call for a nationwide ban on driver use of cell phones remains unclear-and so do the potential impacts on motorists caught violating such legislation, should it be followed up by state legislatures, according to Online Auto Insurance.

Safety officials have long known that text-messaging and other driver contribute to thousands of deaths each year and billions of dollars in economic losses. And the consequences for breaking laws banning such driver activity can be severe, including personal injury, steep fines and other penalties. Plus, there's a good chance of increased expense for anyone trying to buy insurance online or in person after being involved in a distraction-related accident.

Recognizing the safety risk, the National Transit Safety Board (NTSB) last week urged all 50 states to outlaw, except in emergencies, all use of cell phones and any electronic devices behind the wheel that are not specifically designed to help motorists. The federal agency's action was prompted by a multiple-vehicle crash in Missouri that involved one driver text-messaging and killed two people.

It is not yet known what the reaction from states will be to the recommendation. Even more of a mystery, however, is what the insurance implications of such a nationwide ban might be, according to OAI.

Federal safety officials say 35 states and Washington, D.C., already ban texting for all drivers, and another nine states and the nation's capital prohibit the use of hand-held cell phones while driving.
But penalties for violators range among states.

In some, such as Pennsylvania, the punishment amounts to a $50 fine and no moving-violation points added to the offender's driving record. The lack of points means insurers likely would not be made aware of the offense.

Meanwhile, other states-such as New York-not only impose stiffer monetary fines but also add penalty points to the driving records of those caught texting or talking on a handheld from the driver's seat. Because a driver's record is key in determining coverage costs, that could mean a significant rise in premiums.

And an existing federal regulation that prohibits all interstate truckers and bus drivers from using hand-held phones carries strict penalties for each offense. Those include thousands of dollars in fines per offense and possible disqualification from operating a commercial motor vehicle.

Source: http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/rules-regulations/administration/rulemakings/rule-programs/rule_making_details.aspx?ruleid=347

To learn more about this and other safety and auto insurance issues, readers can go to http://www.onlineautoinsurance.com/buy/ where they will find informative resource pages and a rate-comparison generator that can help consumers quickly evaluate their coverage options.