It may have taken six years, but it’s official, Florida is now the 40th state to bas some sort of texting while driving ban. The ban passed into law yesterday, May 28th, 2013 when Governor Scott signed the bill in Miami. Last month, our Kemp, Ruge & Green Law Group blog discussed the details of the bill, the potential roadblocks it might have to passage and its many pros and cons. Come October 1, 2013, the new law will be enacted, so let’s take a look at what it will entail, and how the new law has been received.
First off, the texting while driving ban is a misnomer at best. There are several exceptions built into the law, but before we address them, let’s focus on what the law will penalize. If the driver is texting while his or her vehicle is in motion, AND the driver is committing another traffic violation (like speeding) then the police may issue the driver a ticket for violating the new law. The fine starts at $30 for the first offense, but then jumps to $60 for the second offense, provided the second offense occurred within 5 years of the initial offense.
In addition to the relatively small fine, the new law only bans texting by the driver while the car is moving. Therefore, the driver can still text at red lights, stop signs, and if they pull off to the side of the road, they can text there, as well. In addition, the driver can still talk on his phone while driving at all times, and passengers are not subjected to putting their phone down at all. So considering that the fine is a secondary one (can only be issued in conjunction with a primary offense like speeding) and the fine is a relatively low amount (even for the teen demographic the law is aimed at) should supporters of banning texting while driving have any reason to smile about what just passed?
The answer is yes. For most supporters of the ban, they are not viewing this as the end of the fight against texting while driving, but rather a first step, and an incredibly important one at that. Michele Harris with AAA Auto Club Group Tampa knows that Florida lags behind other states that have banned all cell phone usage in the car. While she would like to see Florida toughen up to our fellow states’ standards, she has stated that AAA Auto Club Group of Tampa will support any effort to make our roads safer.
In addition to Ms. Harris, Steve Augello of Spring Hill is not the least bit deterred by the relatively weak provisions of the bill. He started his work on this ban about five years ago after his teenage daughter was killed in a car accident that was believed to be related to texting while driving. He has traveled to Tallahassee repetitively to meet with legislators, lobbyist, and deliver speeches in effort to save lives. Though he is happy with the progress made so far, he has vowed “my job’s not done. I’ll be back in Tallahassee next year to fight for a stronger law.”
While we do not know what next years’ legislative session will bring or what impact this law will have once it is implemented in October, the Kemp, Ruge & Green Law Group blog will keep you posted on whatever developments occur. And, as always, if you or someone you know needs legal advice or representation, do not hesitate to call or email us.