Ban on texting teens could reduce risk of car accidents in Boca Raton, South Florida

Florida remains one of just eight states yet to implement a law that bans or restricts cell phone use while driving, despite such activity being linked as a leading contributor to serious and fatal <a href="" car accidents from Boca Raton to Cape Coral.

But if one South Florida legislator has anything to say about it, that fact will soon change, the Palm Beach Post reports.

Florida Rep. Irv Slosberg (D-Boca Raton) is pushing a bill that aims to ban Florida minors from using their cell phones while driving. The Minor Traffic Safety Act, if passed, would:

~ Restrict the number of minor passengers permitted to ride with a teen driver.

~ Require teen drivers to display a hang-tag identifying them as minor drivers.

~ Ban teen drivers from talking or texting on their cell phones while driving.

~ Ban school bus drivers from talking or texting on their cell phones while driving (during work hours).

His efforts received (at best) a lukewarm response from students at Olympic Heights High School, where he detailed plans for the bill during a school traffic safety assembly last week. Slosberg plans to file the bill within days.

The Governors Highway Safety Association reports that 30 states have now banned text messaging for all drivers, with one-third of states enacting such a ban in 2010.

Of these, 26 states have made texting while driving a primary citable offense. Meaning: law enforcement can stop a driver just because they were spotted texting behind the wheel. Another eight states have enacted legislation that specifically bans texting among novice drivers and drivers aged 21 and younger.

Few people will dispute that driver distraction has now reached epidemic levels. In 2009, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 20 percent of injury crashes in the U.S. were linked to distracted driving. Last year, more than 5,500 people were killed and another 448,000 injured in crashes caused by driver distraction. Of those killed, more than one in five, or close to 20 percent of distracted driving fatalities, were tied specifically to cell phone distraction.

Drivers aged 20 and younger were the most likely to be involved in a fatal distracted-driving car accident. The NHTSA notes that a driver using a handheld cell phone is four times as likely to be involved in a serious injury crash. Whether handheld or hands-free and regardless of age or experience behind the wheel, a driver talking on their cell phone experiences as much of a delay in response time as a legally intoxicated driver.