Kentucky adding 3 points for texting

Kentucky Gov. Steve BeshearSaying the danger was too great to wait, Gov. Steve Beshear has ordered a three-point penalty for the offense of texting while driving in Kentucky.

The points add new financial incentives to stop driving distracted since insurance companies can use points to set higher premiums for offenders.

Kentucky’s fines for violations of its distracted driving laws are a relatively low $25 for the first offense and then $50, plus court costs.

Under Kentucky’s 2010 distracted driving law, adults are prohibited from text messaging & driving, while drivers under 18 are barred from use of all handheld electronics such as cell phones. The additional points apparently apply only to texting.

License suspension in Kentucky results after 12 points in a two-year period for adults drivers, or seven points for those under age 18.

The start date for the new penalties was described as “soon.” The governor’s office said “once the regulation goes through legislative review and takes effect, the (Transportation Cabinet) will begin assessing the penalty points.” A public comment period runs through early September.

(Update: The Kentucky distracted driving points went into effect in November.)

Beshear is applying the texting & driving points via executive order. Two House bills filed for the 2013 legislative session sought to add the points. One came from the governor: Beshear’s package of highway safety legislation included HB 294, which cleared a key committee but was not approved by the full House. The other bill was never considered.

An activist group called Kentuckians for Better Transportation also had lobbied for the points and for higher fines.

The governor announced the new enforcement measure at the 2013 Kentucky Life Savers Conference, an annual gathering of transportation experts and emergency responders.

“Part of the challenge of highway safety is to keep ahead of technology. The cell phone is symbolic of that challenge. While it has made our lives and jobs easier in many ways, there is no question that far too often it proves to be an irresistible distraction to drivers,” Beshear said in announcing the distracted driving points.

“We want to make sure that Kentuckians refrain from this dangerous activity and today we’re going to be letting drivers know that we’re serious about this.”

In 2012, about 53,600 crashes in Kentucky were linked to driver distraction, the governor’s office said.

No legislation filed in 2012 proposed a ban on handheld cell phone use. The governor acknowledged that enforcing the texting law was difficult because officers often cannot tell if a driver is texting or entering a phone number.



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