Stricter Laws in Effect 10/1/19 for Handheld Device Use

Connecticut has strict laws concerning the use of handheld devices while operating a motor vehicle. Those caught not only lose points on their license, but also face steep fines – $150 to $500 per offense.
Yet, it seems these penalties are not quite enough to keep drivers from answering calls or sending text messages behind the wheel. In July, state legislature took the next step and passed House Bill 7126. The ruling went into effect on October 1, 2019.
Building on current state laws, HB-7126 increases the damages plaintiffs can claim when a mobile or other hand-held electronic device is found to be a factor or direct cause of an accident. Damage limits for personal injury, wrongful death or property damage can now be double or triple what was previously allowed.
One exception exists for owners of a vehicle being leased or rented. These drivers are not responsible for the damages, unless a judge determines the owner’s actions behind the wheel as the cause of accident.
Currently, certain behaviors found to play a role in the accident may incur higher penalties:

  • Speeding
  • Reckless driving
  • Drunk or drugged driving
  • Passing in a no-passing zone
  • Driving on the wrong side of the road or in the wrong direction
  • Failing to give the right of way in a rotary
  • Tailgating, especially to harass or intimidate another motorist

Several statistics concerning the dangers of distracted driving support Connecticut’s recent initiatives:

  • Distracted and inattentive driving are responsible for 80 percent of all car accidents.
  • Based on 2014 figures, distracted driving was a factor in 10 percent of all fatal crashes, 18 percent of injurious crashes and 16 percent of police-reported crashes.
  • Distracted driving is responsible for 1,161 injuries and eight fatalities each day. Yearly, this group of behaviors is behind 425,000 injuries and close to 3,000 deaths.
  • In 2012, 10 percent of 15- to 20-year-olds involved in fatal accidents were engaged in distracted behavior right before the crash occurred.

As HB-7126 goes into effect, it’s recommended drivers take a more defensive approach to combat distracted driving. Simply turning off hand-held devices and keeping them out of reach is only one part of the equation. It’s also the driver’s responsibility to stay alert and keep their eyes fixed on the road to react and respond in a more timely manner.
Unfortunately, taking these steps is easier said than done. As such, some insurance carriers recommend installing a behavior-monitoring app that blocks phone usage as you’re behind the wheel and keeps track of all attempts to access the phone while you’re driving.
Especially for employers who require workers to be available at all times without risking safety, apps like this monitor problematic behavior and pinpoint areas for both employee improvements and management expectations.
Concerned about how HB-7126 could affect your car insurance coverage? Give us a call at 203.729.5261 to speak with an Ion Insurance agent today.