Distracted drivers in Connecticut will now pay higher fines and will be subject to larger surcharges from car insurance companies. CT House Bill 6033 is now officially law after Governor Malloy signed and approved the legislation. It is expected that more lives can be saved and auto insurance rates could also possibly reduce in the future. The vote was 49-1 with Rep. Sawyer the only person that voted against the bill. The House vote was 138-1.
Nationally, more than 3000 persons were killed last year in accidents involving distracted drivers and almost 400,000 additional persons were injured. The new tougher law is being strictly enforced and has also received help from the federal government with a $275,000 grant. The money, provided by the Department Of Transportation, has resulted in much better surveillance and additional violations issued.
Re. Fred Camillo was very instrumental in getting the bill passed. Originally, Camillo introduced the legislation along with fellow Representatives Tony Guerrera and David Scribner. A fatality in Norwalk last year was part of Camillo’s inspiration in creating and passing the legislation. He also was involved in a recent bill that would make it a violation if drivers disregarded traffic signals given by fire police officers and patrolmen.
Connecticut drivers will notice many changes including higher fines when the law is effective in October. Currently, there are three tiers of fines (first, second and third violation). The cost of infractions will increase to $150, $300 and $500 respectively. The increases are approximately 15%-20% from last year’s amounts.
Also, previously, these types of violations did not appear on the official motor vehicle report (MVR). Since they will now appear, high-risk car insurance prices in Connecticut might just get a little higher! Of course, the more activity on your MVR report, potentially, the higher your rates can go.
However, now, they will accumulate points and are considered a “moving violation.” Since insurers typically monitor and periodically check the MVR, rate increases could occur when a driver is habitually convicted of distracted driving violations. With some carriers, a single conviction could increase prices or result in a removal of a discount. And often, these surcharges remain for 1-3 years.
The new law also extends to using handheld devices when your vehicle is not moving. Thus, if you are sitting at a traffic light, stop sign or any other road or intersection, you can not use your cell phone. In fairness, this part of the legislation may be harder to get used to.
A special task force has also been created that will study and compare Connecticut laws with other state distracted driver legislation and determine how it could benefit state residents. Nationally, many states are taking steps to change or modify existing laws to reflect the growing number of cell phone and texting-related accidents.
Certain areas, such as Danbury, Ridgefeld and Newtown are noted for their strong enforcement of these types of laws. Police officers are trained to look for drivers that don’t have their hands on the wheel. Often (certainly not always), it’s a sign of ongoing texting. Often SUVs and motor cycles are utilized since they allow an officer to obtain a much better view of the steering wheel area.
Many local towns and cities are able to retain a portion of the money for citations related to distracted driving. Since the funds are deposited directly into a general account, there are many ways that citizens will benefit. Presentations in local schools is one way to make good use of the money.