The National Council of Insurance Legislators have adopted the Distracted Driving Model Act sponsored by California Assemblyman Ken Cooley, NCOIL vice president, and Ohio state Sen. Bob Hackett at its Spring National Meeting in Charleston, S.C.
The measure passed on a voice vote by both the NCOIL Property & Casualty Insurance Committee and NCOIL Executive Committee.
The model "provides a structure to strengthen distracted driving laws across the country by establishing a comprehensive hands-free law to curb driver distraction," NCOIL said in a news release. It makes distracted driving a primary offense which is an important part of the strategy to reduce traffic deaths and life altering crashes.
Kentucky Rep. Bart Rowland, chair of the P&C Committee said, “We have had a lot of hard work on this Model and had extensive discussions for several months. Asm. Cooley and Sen. Hackett have done a great job being receptive to feedback and moving the Model along toward adoption. The final changes made to the Model showed how NCOIL can deliver bipartisan and sound insurance public policy to states to consider enacting into state law.”
Sen. Hackett stated “The process leading to the adoption of the Distracted Driving Model was NCOIL Model Law development at its finest. The Committee took its time, heard differing perspectives on the issues, while maintaining a respectful exchange of ideas. Thank you to everyone who was involved.”
Asm. Cooley said, “The changes made to the Model over the past several months reflect a bipartisan approach that help create a way to take note of the sensitivity of the topic of documenting how the law is implemented. It also reflects upon NCOIL as a bipartisan, national organization. During discussions in developing the Model, we were able to take note of the valid concerns regarding the potential negative effect of primary enforcement of distracted driving laws on minorities, and the compromise made will permit valid enforcement and at the same time will ensure accountability.”
NCOIL CEO, Cmsr. Tom Considine added, “Thank you to the Committee, and thanks to Sen. Hackett and Asm. Cooley for sponsoring this Model and getting it to a place where it was ready to be voted on. Additionally, I’d like to offer a special thank you to Rep. Edmond Jordan (LA) and Asw. Pam Hunter (NY) for alerting us to the potential for mischief in moving a traffic offense from secondary to primary enforcement; certainly no one at NCOIL wants any part of legislation that would promote racial profiling.” He then concluded, “The importance of this Model is obvious, as it will help to make roads safer and will ultimately help save lives.”
During the drafting discussions of the model, NCOIL legislators and staff heard from a wide
array of experts and interested parties including the Honorable Nicole Nason, Federal Highway Administration Administrator; Jennifer Smith, CEO and Co-founder of StopDistractions.org; Cathy Chase, President of the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety; the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA); the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC); General Motors (GM); Uber; the Alliance for Automotive Innovations; and Nationwide.
Highlights of the Model include:
• Enables law enforcement to ticket drivers for holding a mobile device and limits use of a mounted or “hands free” device while operating a motor vehicle, including texting, viewing videos or images, entering data, and talking or broadcasting content;
• Exceptions are provided for emergencies; operating a commercial truck while using a mobile data terminal that transmits and receives data; and while in a motor vehicle that is lawfully parked;
• Sets up a system of monetary fines and points on a driver’s license for violations of the Act; and
• Requires a law enforcement officer issuing a citation for a violation of the Act to record the race and ethnicity of the violate. Such information must be maintained and reported to the appropriate state agency which shall annually report the data to the Governor, President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives.