June 14, 2012 03:00 ET

New 2012 Car Insurance Laws Tracked on

SALT LAKE CITY, UT--(Marketwire - Jun 14, 2012) - 2012 is bringing a number of new legal changes in the world of car insurance and automobile accident coverage. Many are in response to either social changes or behavior that has been deemed over time to be too dangerous to allow when driving. As a result, laws have been passed in response, some with the intent to save drivers from harm and others to possibly respond to special interests.

Distracted Driving

Smartphones are wonderful communication tools, but many state governments are in agreement they have no business being used when people are driving as well. A number of states have recently passed laws restricting or barring use of a communication device to make calls or send written communication when driving unless the driver's hands are entirely free and on the steering wheel. Both California and New York passed stringent laws with severe penalties for related violations. For insurance companies, the laws can be a boon. Citations allow an insurer to raise rates on an affected driver. Many drivers won't pay attention to the texting-while-driving laws until pulled over and given a ticket. By then, the insurer can recoup quite a bit in premiums before the violation fades away.

Same-Sex Benefits

While some states are still in conflict over what the definition of marriage may be, others have gone forward and recognized marriage rights between residents of the same gender. As a result, insurers in affected states are now adjusting their rates to recognize licensed partners rather than treating them as two separate individuals. The discounts can be in the range of as much as 10 percent for recognized partners, similar to what is provided to male and female married couples.

Tracking for Savings

In a twist, a few states are allowing insurers to pitch the option to their customers to allow personal driving behavior tracking via GPS devices or similar. The trade-off is that the driver that meets certain driving safety criteria can then receive insurance discounts, producing consumer savings. The program is optional when implemented, but to receive the savings the driver must maintain the tracking. For an insurer the major benefit is practically ensured premiums with a far lower probability of accidents and related claims. Those premiums paid then become entirely net profit.

Fraud Penalties Increased

Unfortunately, fraud continues where possible. To create more of a sting on violating parties, states like Florida and others have increased their sentencing requirements on convicted criminals stealing insurance payments. Should the increased penalties have their effect, insurers will realize lower costs and eventually be able to reduce rates on law-abiding customers.

Further Sources regularly tracks changes in car insurance law as well as the impacts on drivers. By using the website regularly drivers can stay ahead of coverage changes rather than being caught by surprise or worse, by citation.

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