Florida texting ban fails; distracted driving a critical issue in South Florida car accidents

A proposed text messaging ban on Florida drivers died in a House committee and will not become law this year, Bloomberg Businessweek reported.

As we reported earlier this year on our South Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, lawmakers had been pushing the measure as a way to reduce serious and fatal Florida car accidents.

Many states have enacted tough new measures aimed at eliminating text messaging and/or cell phone use behind the wheel. Florida’s law has now failed to make it through the legislative process during each of the last four years. Florida is one of 31 states that do not yet outlaw text messaging while driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Although several states are expected to pass laws yet this year.

The federal government has grown increasingly vocal about the dangers of distracted driving and is pushing states to enact a ban on text messaging. The government’s website, www.distraction.gov, claims 6,000 motorists a year are killed and more than half a million injured in accidents involving distracted driving.

Text messaging is particularly dangerous because it involves all three forms of distracted driving: visual, manual and cognitive. The government reports drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to be involved in a crash; and that using a cell phone while driving delays reaction time as much as driving with a blood-alcohol level of .08, the legal limit for drunk driving in Florida.

Florida’s ban on text messaging never moved out of House committee this year after Finance and Tax Council Chairwoman Ellyn Bogdanoff, R-Fort Lauderdale, said there are better ways to combat distracted driving than to ban a specific activity.

She also said the ban would be difficult to enforce and that changing technology could make the issue irrelevant in several years.

On Florida’s Southwest Coast, the Lee County School Board became the latest Florida agency to enact its own ban when it issued a directive this week that bans school employees from texting and driving, according to The News-Press. Lee County government officials are considering a similar ban.

Other forms of distracted driving include:

-Eating or drinking
-Talking to passengers
-Reading or looking at maps
-Using navigation systems or PDAs
-Watching video
-Using other electronic devices, including stereos and Mp3 players