Alabama Governor Signs Texting Bill; Expects to Sign Home Insurance Bills

May 9, 2012

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley has signed into law a measure (HB 2) that prohibits texting while driving.

“Signing this bill sends a message that drivers need to focus on driving – not on sending a text,” Bentley said. “There is nothing so urgent that it is worth risking your life, or the lives of others, by sending a text message while you are driving down the road.”

Bentley also said he is still reviewing several homeowners insurance bills.

According to data provided by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving creates a crash risk that is 23 times greater than when a driver is not distracted. Also, sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. For a driver going 55 miles-per-hour,that’s the equivalent of driving the entire length of a football field.

Alabama’s new law prohibits using a wireless device to write, send, or read a text message, instant message or e-mail while operating a motor vehicle. The fine for violating the law is $25 for a first-time offense, $50 for a second offense and $75 for a third or subsequent offense. Also, for each offense, a two-point violation would be placed on the offender’s driving record.

Rep. Jim McClendon was the House sponsor of the legislation. “After six years of attempting to get this bill through, persistence has finally paid off,” McClendon said. “It took four years for this bill to pass the House, two years for it to pass the Senate, and today, I’m delighted that Governor Bentley is signing this bill into law. Our highways will be safer with the passage of this law.”

Senator Jabo Waggoner was the Senate sponsor of the legislation. “I am proud to have assisted in passing this important bill that I believe will help save lives on Alabama’s roadways,” Senator Waggoner said.

The law goes into effect on August 1, 2012.

According to the Governors Highway Safety Association, 37 states already prohibit texting while driving, including two of Alabama’s neighbors: Georgia and Tennessee.

Bentley released a statement regarding legislative approval of a series of bills related to the cost and availability homeowners insurance, issues he has promised to address.

“The lack of affordable homeowners insurance is an important issue affecting many people in Alabama, especially those living along the Gulf Coast,” Bentley said. “These bills are a good step toward making insurance more affordable, and I am supportive of these efforts. I appreciate the commitment of the Legislature to address insurance concerns in Alabama.”

Bentley said expects to sign the bills soon.

Insurance bills receiving final approval in the Legislature Tuesday include:

• Senate Bill 230 – A bill that gives tax credits to insurance companies that write insurance policies in particular areas of Mobile and Baldwin counties.

• Senate Bill 210 – A bill that requires insurance companies to send information to the Department of Insurance on numbers of policies written, premiums collected, and losses due to claims. The department will aggregate this data and make it available online to the public via zip code searches.

• Senate Bill 164 – A bill that allows insurers in Alabama to have more flexibility in their investments by allowing them to make new, out-of-state investments.

In addition, Senate Bill 227 was amended by the House and now goes back to the Senate for final review. SB 227 allows homeowners to create a “catastrophe savings account” that could be used toward a deductible and other uninsured loss related to storm damage. If concurred by the Senate, SB 227 will go to the Governor.

“Our goal is to make sure affordable insurance options are available to the people of this state,” Bentley said. “I commend the Alabama Department of Insurance, legislators, insurance consumers, and the insurance industry for working together on this important series of bills.”

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