Ah, the ever popular topic of distracted driving. Now New Jersey lawmakers are set to impose higher fines on drivers who talk or text behind the wheel. Yep, on Monday the Senate Law and Pubic Safety committee approved a bill that would double the fine on first offenses — that brings it up to $200 in that particular state scheme. ($400 on second and $600 on subsequent. Three times, lose your license for 90 days.)
I hate to be a jaded ole soul. I really, really, really do. However. If police in New Jersey have written 10,000 tickets per month since the handsfree phone law went into affect in 2008, that’s a minimum of $1 million a month, for let’s say 24 months. And they want to double the fines. Did you see a turnip truck go by, ’cause I sure didn’t. These laws, just like red light cameras are profitable for cash strapped local and state governments. Period.
Is distracted driving dangerous? Of course it is. No one is arguing that. But obviously fining people isn’t stopping it. We had a little experiment back in the 1920s called Prohibition. Big moral experiment. Outlawed drinking — which proceeded to double in the U.Ss for the very reason that is was illegal. People are like that. We’re perverse creatures.
So, in my opinion, which with a nickel won’t get you a cup of coffee, what would help?
– Better in-car handsfree technology as a standard feature at an affordable price point.
– Cell phones that come bundled with bluetooth headsets.
– And hefty, and I do mean hefty, insurance discounts for every handsfree technology you use.
This area, like discounts for “green” and alternative fuel features, is in its infancy in the insurance world. If you have OnStar, which includes handsfree, your discount is a done deal, but that is far from the only way to integrate the operation of your cell phone into your dash board.
Increasingly drivers are going to need to get aggressive when negotiating for a better premium rate. With more and more handsfree, anti-texting, anti-talking laws going on the books, you can bet that cellphone use is getting figured into formulas for risk assessment, so put it on the table and argue that whatever system you’re using (which you’ll need to verify with photographs or a physical tour of your vehicle in the parking lot) is also worth a discount on your payments.