Texting ban slowly gaining momentum in Florida

Texting while driving in Florida may be foolish, but it’s not against the law. At least not yet. Governor Rick Scott and Attorney General Pam Bondi are wondering if it’s time for a change, but first they want to know whether texting while driving is a problem, and if so, how much of a problem? The state collects some data on texting-related accidents but the database is not complete and many crashes are missed. This much we know – highway fatalities are up 4 percent this year. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles says texting was a factor in 180 crashes last year, about 1 percent of the total. Officials there say the only way to be sure that texting contributed to the crash is for the driver to admit it. Not a scientific way to collect data.

Distracted driving is blamed for 43 percent of the fatal wrecks in the state. For the first three months of 2012 the highway death toll stood at 636. That increase from 609 the year before is what caught the governor’s attention. The logical next step would be to start collecting information about distracted driving from law enforcement agencies across Florida, in an effort to get a clear picture of the problem. However, that is not the governor’s plan. He wants to look at numbers from other states that already ban texting while driving to see if the laws there are having a measurable effect.

In Georgia, Alabama, Massachusetts, California and New York, getting caught thumbing out a text behind the wheel earns the driver a hefty fine and sometimes points on their license. The Department of Transportation recently gathered safety advocates, families of accident victims, and emergency room doctors to talk about the issue, and a bill has been filed in the State Senate that would impose a $30 fine for driving while texting. Using GPS systems will still be allowed. That is where things stand. No reports yet of any groundswell of support for an anti-texting law.

Source: Fort Meyers News-Press, “In-car texting ban gains a following,” Marissa Kendall, Nov. 24, 2012

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