Florida is one of the few states left that has yet to enact some sort of law to prohibit drivers from texting behind the wheel. As a matter of fact, there are 35 states and the District of Columbia that have already made that move toward safer roadways.
Florida is lagging behind because, for quite some time now, the Florida Legislature, with Republican supermajorities in both chambers, has been rather hesitant in passing to interfere with what some perceive as the freedom of motorists. There was one bill that died in the committee in 2011. They’re usually shot down because officials say that this type of law would be government intrusion into people’s lives, according to the Florida Today.
Those in support of such a ban say that it’s not intrusion if it’s helping to save lives and prevent car accidents in Boca Raton and elsewhere throughout the state.
“There are already laws on the books that make it illegal to drive unsafely,” said Jim Harper, director of information policy studies for the libertarian Cato Institute.
Our Boca Raton car accident lawyers understand that officials try to use the “reckless driving” law that Florida has to try to get drivers to put down their phones and text messaging devices behind the wheel. Unfortunately, that isn’t working as distraction-related car accidents continue to plague our roadways. According to a recent study from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FHSMV), one out of every seven drivers admitted to text messaging behind the wheel in the last month. Nearly half of all drivers under the age of 24-years-old admit to texting while driving during that same time. These statistics can be scary for motorists concerned about their own safety.
Harper understands the viewpoints of drivers and government intrusion. He reiterates that being opposed to an anti-texting law does not make you opposed to roadway safety. He says that it would just be silly if we had a law in place to ban everything that could be considered “dangerous” while driving. He uses cup holders as an example. When those were first introduced in our vehicles, there was in fact an increase in the number of accidents. Still, officials didn’t run out and ban cup holders.
Senate Bill 416 tried to make texting illegal for drivers. It sped through three committees, but has yet been scheduled for a final vote by the full chamber. The House version of that bill (HB 299) has made it nowhere.
A spokesperson for Governor Rick Scott, who is usually an advocate for small and limited government, says that he has yet to take a side on this ban. Back in 2010 when he was running for office, he told AAA that distracted driving, including text messaging while driving, needs to be discouraged for drivers of all ages. He said that he planned on working with lawmakers to address this behavior. He says that his wife’s vehicle was once hit by a texting driver.
Both the Senate bill and the House bill only make texting while driving a secondary offense. Drivers could only be cited for the behavior after they’ve been pulled over for another offense, like speeding or running a red light. The first citation would be $30 and the second (within five years) would be $60. If a driver got into an accident because of texting at the wheel, they could get six points on their driver’s license. Remember that 12 points in a year lands a driver with a 30-day driver’s license suspension and potential insurance rate hikes.
AAA reports that drivers are 23 times more likely to get into an accident while texting.