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DISTRACTED DRIVING: New Laws to Take Effect October 1, 2013

Texting or talking on your cell phone while in your car will result in higher fines under new laws that go into effect later this year. Gov. Dannel P. Malloy recently approved the higher fines as part of an overall effort by the state to cut down on the number of distracted drivers, and distracted driving accidents, in Connecticut.

The new fines will go into effect October 1, 2013 and will increase the penalty for using a cell phone in a car from $125 to $150 for the first offense, $250 to $300 for the second offense and $400 to $500 for the third offense. The measures also allow insurance companies to take distracted driving violations into account when setting customers’ auto insurance rates.

A second law will make it illegal to use a handheld device behind the wheel, even if the vehicle is sitting motionless at a signal or in traffic; under current law, the motorist must be driving for a violation to occur.

In 2012, police in Connecticut issued 29,435 tickets for violations of the state’s prohibition against using handheld electronic devices while driving, according to statistic compiled by the Judicial Branch. In 2011, 3,331 people nationwide were killed in crashes involving a distracted driver, compared to 3,267 in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration