Florida Lawmakers Debate: DN’T TXT N DRV

Cell phone use in cars is quickly becoming a hot topic of debate in Florida.

Lawmakers continue to wrestle with whether the state needs tougher mandates to prevent distracted driving crashes.

In particular, strong opinions are being expressed on the issue of whether texting behind the wheel should be outlawed.

Florida is one of the few hold-out states on the issue. Thirty-nine others have passed some form of restrictions on sending texts while driving.

Our West Palm Beach car accident attorneys know that sometimes it’s impossible to avoid a traffic crash. But we also understand that texting in the driver’s seat has been known to increase the risk of a crash by 23 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The Miami Herald recently reported that a bill to ban Florida motorists from texting is gaining momentum, Just this month, it was approved by a second state senate committee. That means it has just one more stop before landing on the senate floor for final debate.

It’s the third time such a bill has been brought before Florida legislators. Previously, support for two similar bills fizzled.

Meanwhile, a similar bill in the state house of representatives is moving a bit slower.
If Republican state Senator Nancy Detert is successful in her bid to pass the bill, texting while driving would become a secondary offense in Florida. That means that police couldn’t perform a traffic stop solely based on whether a person was believed to be texting. But if someone is stopped for violating another traffic law and law enforcement believes they were also texting, he or she could be charged for that offense as well.

Some say the measure doesn’t go far enough. For example, Republican Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla was quoted by the Herald as saying he would also push for an amendment to the ban that would impose additional punishment for texting while driving in a school zone.

“Schools should be safe havens, and that includes the area where people drop off their children or where children walk to school,” he told the paper.

There are others, though, who question whether the law would be difficult to enforce.
Republican Sen. Joe Negron stated that first of all, there are already laws on the books to address reckless driving.

Secondly, he wondered how police would determine the difference between whether a motorist is actually texting or, say, dialing a phone number.

Still, one would be hard-pressed to find someone who disputes the fact that distracted driving is dangerous.

A recent study by Carnegie Mellon found that drivers who used a cell phone displayed a 37 percent loss of concentration. That’s especially concerning when considering that car accidents in Boca Raton and elsewhere can unfold in fractions of a second.

Young drivers are particularly at risk, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, which reports that 16 percent of all teens killed in car accidents were distracted. Further, traffic accidents are the No. 1 killer of teens in America.

That’s why many states have passed texting bans specifically geared toward younger drivers.