Unfortunately, it is common to see many people drive around Florida roads with their eyes fixed on the phone screen and typing with their thumbs, while not paying enough attention to what’s going on in front of them. Although everyone knows about the dangers of this habit, no one seems to care. Maybe it has something to do with driver’s carelessness, or maybe with weak Florida texting while driving laws as well. Unlike most American states, in the Sunshine State, a police officer cannot pull you off for doing any activity with your phone, no matter how dangerous it is.
Now that is about to change. A new bill aiming to hit drivers’ damaging texting habits and save lives from distracted driving is expected to be passed in the next few days. It will make texting while driving a primary offense, allowing law enforcement officers to stop reckless drivers guilty of this offense. With that, Florida will join other 43 states that regulate this issue in the same manner.
Existing Florida Texting and Driving Laws
The current Florida texting while driving laws probably won’t make many drivers put their phones aside due to fear of tickets, because they are almost non-existent. Texting while driving is just a secondary offense, so drivers are fined only if they committed a primary offense, such as speeding. If a police officer caught you speeding, he can pull you over and ticket you for speeding and texting while driving. But if you were just texting while driving without being guilty of speeding or another primary offense, you can’t be pulled over and fined for the texting only due to the lack of primary offense.
Additionally, many other handheld phone activities remain legal. You are free to check out apps or take pictures while driving. You can even show the police officer that you’ve been doing so. Again, you can’t be fined for these activities unless you do something else that is considered a primary offense.
This is obviously not the best way to tackle the problem considering the possible consequences that texting while driving brings. Consider that at 40MPH you travel at around 58 feet per second. Staring at the phone for five seconds to read or type a message means that you’ve traveled almost 300 feet without looking at the front. In those 300 feet, a car may have stopped or someone may have walked onto the road. By the time you notice that, it could be too late to stop. The brain needs only a second to turn attention back on the road, but that will rarely be enough to prevent someone’s death or severe injury.
According to a study’s findings, the Miami Herald reported that Florida drivers are the second most distracted drivers in the United States. The State Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles confirms that a whopping 50,000 distracted driving accidents occur in Florida yearly, which is more than five per hour. These accidents result in approximately 3500 serious injuries and more than 200 deaths per year. However, these numbers might not be accurate. Drivers involved in car accidents often conceal the actual reasons for the crash, so one could only guess how high the real numbers are. Whatever are the real numbers, they speak of the necessity for change of texting while driving laws.
A new bill concerning driving while texting is expected to be passed soon. It will put an end to the tolerance of texting while driving by the legislature. Further it will empower law enforcement with the necessary tools to deter and punish those who put us all at risk due to distracted driving and texting while driving. Under the proposed legislation, it will be a primary offense, and police officers will have the power to pull over offending drivers and issue a traffic ticket. The vast majority of Floridians have positive expectations from the bill. They believe that the threat of fines will prevent or at least reduce drivers’ recklessness, which will ultimately improve road safety significantly.
Unlike the majority of Floridians, who are in support of the new bill, the American Civil Liberty Union (ACLU) is against it. They fear that police officers could abuse the new power to pulling over cars due to texting while driving to racially profile drivers. The ACLU draws comparisons with their findings in racial disparities in safety belt enforcement. According to their reports: “People of color are overall more likely to be subjected to a police search once stopped — providing a good reason to have concern about how this bill would allow for more officer discretion and racial profiling.” Proponents of the new legislation, however, disagree with this position arguing that they are placing public safety as the sole reason why the law is being changed.
The Future of Driving While Texting Laws in Florida
It is reasonable to expect that the number of issued traffic tickets will increase, but the distracted driver accidents in Florida will drop eventually, decreasing the number of deaths and personal injuries on Florida roads as well. But it is not reasonable to believe that any law will prevent or eliminate accidents. Texting while driving has caused many accidents leading to injuries and deaths. We all need to remember that the wisest decision we can make is to avoid texting while driving completely. Not because of the threat of fines, but because every one of us has to act as a responsible citizen and protect others from his or her damaging behavior.
Florida Injury Lawyer Assisting Victims of Driving While Texting Car Accidents
At Wolfson & Leon, our car accident lawyers in Miami strongly support the new legislation prohibiting driving and texting as a primary offense. It makes sense, should save lives and prevent injuries. We have helped Miami car accident victims who suffered serious injuries and families who have lost loved ones due to distracted drivers who may have been texting while driving. Our Miami car accident lawyers offer free consultations so call us at (305) 285-1115 if you have been injured in a car accident or if you have any questions about the new legislation discussed herein.