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Stop paying text driving claims

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Friday, January 6, 2012
Posted: 10 am ET

Despite a recent, strongly worded recommendation by the National Transportation Safety Board that calls for a nationwide ban on cellphone use, email and texting while driving, our current political paralysis makes the likelihood of that happening pretty remote.

Even if you remove politics from the equation, our track record of enforcing highway safety nationally isn't encouraging. After all, this nation drove unbuckled for decades before the first state (New York) thought to require seat belt use in 1984. Today, only 32 states and the District of Columbia have primary enforcement that makes driving unbuckled by itself a ticket-worthy offense. In New Hampshire, you still don't have to buckle up at all.

This isn't another seat belt fight however; not even close. Seat belts are designed to save your life in a traffic accident. They have no effect on those in other vehicles, just as whether the other driver is wearing a seat belt has no effect on your safety.

A gadget ban is designed to save you from the dangers of both your own misuse of and distraction by gadgets and similar misuse by other drivers. Research has shown that texting, phone chats and emailing behind the wheel most resemble drunk driving, with similar devastating results.

Unfortunately, the reality of our national muddle means that this year, as last year and the year before, some 3,000 Americans will likely be sacrificed in part to our national obsession with using electronic gadgetry while driving.

Let me propose an alternative insurance solution to this public safety hazard that avoids the whole legislative, judicial, and political sinkhole and might just save some lives without undue burden to law enforcement: insurers can simply stop paying claims on gadget-related accidents.

There is both contractual precedence and an obvious economic incentive for insurers to consider such a move. After all, your auto insurance typically won't cover you for intentional acts or damage that results from committing a crime, just as your homeowners policy won't pay if you intentionally burn your house down.

In my view, we've seen enough carnage to classify gadget driving as a form of reckless endangerment. Now it's time for the property and casualty industry to step up and designate gadget use as an exclusion to its personal and commercial auto policies.

Maybe the financial risk of an uncovered auto accident will stop this deadly habit before it claims more innocent lives.

Who's with me?

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2 Comments
Jay MacDonald
January 06, 2012 at 5:12 pm

Hi, Charlie: It wouldn't be just texting; cell phone calls, including hands-free, and other gadget use also should be included. One of the advantages of an insurance-based action like this is, it's fairly easy to source both use and time of use with most devices. Since the primary offender tends to be the driver's phone, it's pretty simple to prove who owns it, and if the vehicle is unoccupied, there goes that defense. All of that said, my hope is that simply the threat of not having auto coverage would be a sufficient deterrent for most. I'll leave it to the insurance companies and their legion of lawyers to work out the details.

Charlie H
January 06, 2012 at 1:01 pm

The problem is how would the insurer prove that the driver was txting?