Crackdown on texting in 2013
Texters beware! State and federal officials are gearing up for a texting crackdown this year by devoting money to new enforcement techniques and by rewarding states that have severe penalties for repeat offenders.
This means that in some states not only are you more likely to get busted for texting, but that you'll wind up paying more – both in penalties and for car insurance. (See: "Got a ticket? You could be paying for it for years.")
In Connecticut and Massachusetts, one tactic being tested by the U.S. Department of Transportation involves placing "spotters" on overpasses who would alert patrol cars down the road of driving texters. Another new enforcement method is to have officers in unmarked, high-riding SUVs drive around, using their elevated field of vision to look into other vehicles and catch texters in the act. Tennessee has already put unmarked SUVs on the road in texting hotspots.
California and Delaware have also been awarded funds to ramp up enforcement and publicize the result. The first wave resulted in 4,753 tickets in early December, and two more "maximum enforcement" periods are planned in 2013.
There is also a distracted driving incentive grant program going into effect this year. States will receive $11.9 million if they pass a total cellphone ban for drivers under 18 and a texting ban for all drivers. To receive the full $11.9 million, states also must set minimum and escalating fines for drivers who violate the ban. Additionally, they must include questions about distracted driving in the written exam drivers must take to receive their licenses.
Meanwhile, an increasing number of states -- Alabama, Illinois, Louisiana, Nevada, New York, Vermont, Wisconsin and Wyoming among them -- are handling texting tickets as moving violations that are reported to the department of motor vehicles and thus to your insurer. (See: "The 411 on cellphone tickets and insurance.")
A texting ticket that hits your motor vehicle record could push your rates up 10 to 20 percent for a first offense and 40 percent for repeat offender, says Penny Gusner, consumer analyst at CarInsurance.com.
Des Toups is a writer, editor and expert on insurance, cars and personal finance. He has written extensively about all three for national publications such as MSN and major newspapers such as the Seattle Times. He has been quoted about insurance issues in The New York Times, USA Today and Kiplinger's. Follow him on Twitter @destoups.