Floridians face a full ban on texting while driving if legislature passes new bill

Posted: , by Alan Friedman Alan Friedman

Floridians face a full ban on texting while driving if legislature passes new bill
For now, Florida is one of seven states that requires those texting while driving to have committed another infraction before being charged with distracted driving. But that is about to change. The Florida state legislature will soon discuss the possibilities of pushing through a bill that will make texting while driving a primary offense. That means that the cops will be able to nail someone behind the wheel who is texting even if they aren't speeding, shifting lanes without flashing their signal, or driving a vehicle that doesn't have a license.

First time offenders under the bill, would be fined $30 plus court costs, and would not be assessed any points. Many suggest that the bill is necessary, especially after data from 2015 revealed that accidents from texting and other forms of distracted driving resulted in an average of more than nine deaths a day in the state. Contrast that to the current law in Florida under which only three drivers a day on average, are cited for texting while driving.

Will banning texting while driving reduce the number of fatal accidents caused by distracted driving? Data released by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) revealed that five of the seven states where texting behind the wheel isn't a primary offense, had highway deaths above average in 2016. On the other hand the IIHS found that in states where a ban  is enacted, there is no drop off in accidents even though the number of drivers texting had declined. One theory is that once a ban is put in place, drivers hold their phone lower so as not to be seen by the cops. But that keeps these drivers' eyes off the roads for a longer period of time, increasing the risk of an accident occurring. On the other hand, a study conducted in 2014 by the University of Alabama at Birmingham, found that states passing a full texting ban had a 3% decline in fatalities. 

One of the lawmakers sponsoring the bill, Democratic state Rep. Emily Slosberg, was injured in a 1996 car accident that killed her twin sister. The driver at fault was arrested for reckless driving. Slosberg says, "You see it every day when you are out driving - people texting. It has become part of our culture. It is time for the Legislature to send a message that we will no longer accept this deadly behavior on our roads."

Some against the bill argue that there is no need to change the current law since tickets can already be issued for actions like swerving, following too closely, and other infractions. Others worry that if the bill is voted into law, minorities will feel the brunt of the law change.

source: AP

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