Whether we have been in an automobile accident as a result of texting while driving, know someone who has been in one, or have just had the pleasure of waiting 10 seconds at a green light for someone to finish their “lol,” reply, texting while driving is an ever increasing danger to Florida motorists, passengers, and pedestrians alike. So what is being done to confront this problem? Well, the Kemp Ruge & Green Law group has all the up-to-date information on what the Florida Legislature has done, is trying to do, and the predictions of a few industry specialists.
While there have been times our Sunshine State has been a trailblazer for other states to follow, this is not one of those times. According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Florida is one of only eleven states that does NOT have a texting while driving ban. Up to this point, thirty nine other legislatures and the District of Columbia have attempted to address this issue, and yesterday, Florida’s legislature finally did as well.
Led by Senator, Nancy Detert, a longtime advocate for banning texting while driving finally got her proposal passed after fighting for it for five years. Oddly enough, in a time where few political battles are ever universally agreed upon, this proposal passed unanimously (36-0) by the full Senate. Considering this ringing endorsement, and a large number of public opinion polls coming out in favor of banning texting while driving, it is very likely this bill will pass. So, let’s take an early look at what the proposal entails and does not entail.
The proposal is reminiscent of the old seat belt laws Florida had until 2009. Essentially, like the old seat belt laws, texting while driving will only be a secondary offense; this means that a driver would have to be doing something else wrong (like speeding) to get a ticket for texting while driving. However, even as a secondary offense, considering how many people swerve or drive in some other careless way while texting and driving, the secondary offense stipulation should still result in a number of tickets.
Though the proposal passed unanimously, there have been certain detractors outside the Senate. They have pointed out a few potential problems with the proposal. First, the fine is only $30.00, and $30.00 is just not enough to change someone’s behavior. However, the fine increases to $60.00 and will add three points to someone’s license if a second offense occurs within five years of the first. Second, the proposal only bans texting while driving (or, in other words, when the car is in motion), it does not ban texting while stopped at a red light or while pulled off the road. Thus, there is still a heavy temptation to continue texting after the light turns green. Finally, there are reports that bans in other states have not worked. Rather than give up texting while driving, people are just texting with their phones completely out of view in their lap. This unintended consequence is arguably more dangerous and could be causing more accidents.
As the proposal makes its way through the House, we will keep you posted on its progress and if any changes will be made. Also, if you are free April 27, 2013 join Kemp, Ruge & Green Law Group at the Verizon Event Center in New Port Richey. We will be sponsoring, Put It Down, an event aimed at educated our youth on the danger of driving distracted. There will food, fun, and drawings.
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