Online Auto Insurance: Two States Tell Texters to Get the Message

New Idaho, West Virginia statutes ban texting while driving; WV’s law has auto insurance implications.

Online PR News – 13-April-2012 – Boise, Idaho – April, National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, has already been chock full of news about the texting, calling and Web surfing that more and more motorists are doing behind the wheel—and teens have been at the center of it, according to

A State Farm survey released this month found that most teenage respondents have texted while driving, as governors in Idaho and West Virginia signed off on laws prohibiting the practice for all drivers that go into effect this July. Debates in both state legislatures included talk about the prevalence of distracted driving among young motorists.

West Virginia took a harder-line enforcement approach, constructing its legislation so that repeat offenders would get three points on their driving records on the third violation. Insurance companies can use those points to identify riskier motorists and raise auto insurance comparison quotes and premiums, something that parents should keep in mind when shopping for insurance for their newly licensed teenager.

West Virginia’s law prohibits both texting and hand-held cell phone use.

You and I who are obeying the law are going to help pay for those accidents in that vein

The Sauers, the family of a teenage girl killed in a crash that police say involved distracted driving, led public testimony during Senate and House debates around Idaho’s legislation and also made rounds on national morning shows as support for the law grew.

Some opponents of Idaho’s law said that enforcement of a texting ban can be difficult. The law’s language defines texting as “engaging in the review of, or manual preparation and transmission of, written communications via handheld wireless devices,” and some have pointed out only applying the law to hand-held devices would leave certain technologies that enable distracted driving out of the reach of law enforcement, including dash-mounted devices and Web-surfing smartphones.

Other opponents also took issue with Idaho’s enforcement approach, which specifically designates that the infraction of texting while driving is not a moving violation with the potential to inflate premiums. Rep. Pete Nielson (R-Mountain Home) told fellow lawmakers that the law would be unfair to safer drivers’ insurance costs.

“You and I who are obeying the law are going to help pay for those accidents in that vein,” he said.

Supporters, like Rep. Shirley Ringo (D-Moscow), said enforcement issues could be revisited but emphasized that the law’s main purpose was to make a statewide point.

“If this bill gives a message to some people that that’s not the right thing to do, I think it’s very much worthwhile,” Ringo said during the March debate in the state House.

Time will tell if teens get that “message.” Results of two State Farm surveys taken two years apart showed that teenagers’ opinions toward texting has been persistently misguided, including the perception that texting would be less likely than drunk driving to lead to a fatal crash.

Meanwhile, federal officials continue their efforts this month to combat distracted driving, which include the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration conducting a nationwide telephone survey on distracted driving and the Department of Transportation promoting its slogan of “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All” as the center of its month-long campaign.


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