While the dangers of texting and driving have become public knowledge, that doesn’t stop people from picking up the phone and responding to that text, even if they’re behind the wheel of a car. This behavior is disturbingly commonplace, especially in Florida, where the current laws against texting and driving do not have much clout. However, Representative Richard Corcoran, Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, is looking to change that.
While texting and driving is currently against the law in Florida and has been since 2013, it is only a secondary offense. This means that in order for an officer to issue a citation for texting and driving, the officer must have another lawful reason for pulling the driver over.
The current law does not seem to have done much to curb instances of texting and driving. In 2016, almost 50,000 motor vehicle accidents were caused by distracted driving, resulting in 233 fatalities. However, in that year, only 1,400 people were issued citations for texting and driving.
However, Corcoran is backing a piece of legislation co-sponsored by two other Representatives that would elevate texting and driving from a secondary offense to a primary offense. Under this bill, the first time a motorist is cited for texting and driving, that motorist would be fined $30 along with court costs, which would bump the amount the motorist is penalized up to $108. If a motorist violates the texting and driving law a second time during the next five years, that motorist would be fined $60 along with court costs, which would bump the amount the motorist is penalized up to $158. If a motorist causes a collision due to texting and driving, six points would be added to their driving record (currently no points are added).
Time will tell how this bill will progress, so as of right now, texting and driving remains a secondary offense. However, a law without much teeth is not a great deterrent, so any action taken to try to discourage distracted driving may be a step in the right direction.
Source: The Gainesville Sun, “Editorial: Texting bill gains a powerful ally,” Dec. 9, 2017