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A bill that would outlaw texting and driving in Florida is progressing through legislature with companion bills to follow. The Senate Communications committee met on March 6, 2013, to consider the bill (SB 52). Opponents have long likened it to needless government intrusion, but supporters say the measure will save lives.
Florida lawmakers have declared a war against texting while driving for the upcoming legislative session. In doing so, they hope to send a message to all Florida drivers to keep your eyes on the road!
Lawmakers have been trying to place different bans on the use of cell phones while driving for more than a decade. Pressure to pass a measure against texting started to build in late 2012, after Florida’s traffic fatalities showed an increase.
According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Florida is one of six states without a ban on texting and driving. Thirty-nine states have such bans and five states prohibit teens from texting while driving. In addition to SB 52, Rep. Irv Slosberg (D-Boca Raton) recently filed two bills. One bill would prohibit anyone under 18 from using a phone while driving. The other would classify fatal accidents caused by texting as vehicular homicide.
Some of the bills filed by lawmakers in the House and Senate go a step beyond banning texting.
Sen. Maria Sachs (D-Delray Beach) is sponsoring a bill that places a complete ban on the use of a cell phone, unless it is with a hands-free device. And Sen. Joseph Abruzzo (D-Wellington) wants to prevent anyone younger than 18 from using a phone while behind the wheel – period.
If passed, the SB 52 would make texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers must first commit a primary offense such as speeding in order to be ticketed. Offenders would be fined $30 the first time, then $60 the second time in addition to six points being added to their drivers' license.
SB 52 would allow for drivers to use their phone for texting as long as their vehicle is stationary. The bill outlaws texting by drivers but exempts police and other emergency vehicles.
The bill also includes exemptions allowing drivers to text at red lights, view maps, use voice-commands or listen to the radio via cell phone.
Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into an injury crash, according to information compiled by American Trauma Society. It’s why Sachs would like to ban all forms of communication with a cell phone, unless it’s with a hands-free device.
In 2011, more than 25,000 drivers reported they were distracted when they crashed, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Of those drivers, at least 2,770 drivers confessed that an electronic communication device, such as a cell phone, was the reason for their distracted-driving crash. Another 832 blamed their GPS or a similar device.
Research shows that a text message can take a driver’s eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds. If traveling at fifty-five miles per hour, the vehicle will go the length of a football field before the driver looks up.
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