Auto insurers hoping to keep rates under control can look forward to a happy new year. As Jan. 1, 2010 quickly approaches, Illinois, Kansas, New Hampshire and Oregon are all preparing to enforce stronger laws regarding cell phone use and texting, says Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

Of the four state with stronger laws set to take effect on New Year’s Day, Oregon goes the farthest by banning the use of hand held devices and texting for all drivers. The Oregon law also prohibits people under age 18 from using any type of cell phone while driving, while Illinois is placing new restrictions on hand held devices and bans their use in construction and school zones.  Kansas is implementing a ban on all cell phone use and texting for young drivers who have learner's permits and intermediate licenses.  New Hampshire is cracking down on texting and implements a ban on this activity for all drivers. 

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, there are statewide bans on driving while talking on a hand-held cell phone in seven states (California, Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, Oregon, Utah and Washington) and the District of Columbia. 

Text messaging is banned for all drivers in 19 states and the District of Columbia. In addition, novice drivers are banned from texting in nine states (Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Maine, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Texas and West Virginia).

“These four states are joining a growing number states and localities that are implementing or strengthening restrictions on cell phone use and texting,” says Robert Passmore, senior director of personal lines for PCI. "In 2009, 17 states implemented or strengthened cell phone and texting laws. The enactment of these laws is positive; however it takes a coordinated strategy combining education and enforcement to get results. All drivers have a responsibility to exercise good judgment in all of their driving activities and cell phone use only represents one of a laundry list of distractions that can lead to a crash."

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that nearly 6,000 people died in 2008 in crashes involving a distracted or inattentive driver, and more than half a million were injured. Research also shows that the worst offenders are the youngest and least experienced drivers: men and women under 20 years of age.






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