Florida Texting Law May Soon Strengthen

Florida was one of the last states to pass a measure banning text messaging for drivers, finally taking the leap in 2013. The law bars drivers from typing or reading text or e-mail messages while driving. But many were critical, arguing the law didn’t go far enough as a secondary offense. Plus, there are exemptions for talk-to-text models and GPS use. cellphone1

Now, there are efforts to correct such shortcomings.

Three bills have been presented in the 2015 legislative session that would amend the Florida texting-while-driving ban to make it a primary offense, increase penalties for violations in school zones and in school crossings.

Specifically, those measures are:

  • SB 246, filed by Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach
  • HB1, filed by Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston
  • SB 192, filed by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera

The measures are similar, with all proposing to make it a primary offense, meaning a violation could warrant intervention from law enforcement. That would put it on par with something like speeding or a seat belt violation.

Additionally, there are a number of other bills pending that would limit or eliminate the use of all cellphones and wireless devices while operating a vehicle.

These efforts are supported by safety advocates, such as AAA, as well as law enforcement groups, such as the Florida Sheriffs Association legislative committee.

In the first year of the ban, news outlets reported statewide, fewer than 1,800 citations were issued. To understand how minimal that is, here’s some context:

  • A federal study indicated that at any given moment, 40,000 Florida drivers are distracted by technology;
  • 11,900 citations were issued that same year for improper parking
  • 22,000 citations were issued that same year for improper backing

Our Fort Myers accident lawyers recognize law enforcement officers have been effectively helpless to stop offenders, even when they see someone breaking the law. Unless the driver commits some other infraction – speeding, traveling left of center, blowing a stop sign, etc. – police have no authority to stop the offender.

A spokesman for the Lee County Sheriff’s Office reported the agency has handed out 41 citations for texting-while driving since February 2014. In Collier County, an official reported the sheriff’s office gives out “a few” tickets for texting and driving.

Overall in Southwest Florida, The New-Press reports officers handed out 99 citations in the first six months after the law went into effect – from October 2013 through April 2014. However, more than half of those were issued by the Florida Highway Patrol.

The citations that are issued are tacked on to some other offense.

In addition to making texting and driving a primary offense, additional penalties would be issued, particularly for drivers whose distraction results in a fatal accident. Currently, a citation results in a $100 fine. No points are accrued on an offender’s driver’s license, meaning the measure doesn’t serve as much of a deterrent.

Federal officials report texting while driving causes 1.6 million accidents annually – about a quarter of all traffic crashes. That results in 330,000 injuries every year, as well as 3,330 deaths.

Texting is the No. 1 distraction reported by teens who drive, and it increase the likelihood of a crash by twenty-three-fold, according to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration.

If you have been injured in an accident, contact the Hollander Law Firm at 888-751-7777 for a free and confidential consultation. There is no fee unless we win.

Additional Resources:

Bills aim to enhance texting while driving law, Dec. 24, 2014, By Steve Doane, The News-Press

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