Effectiveness of Florida’s texting and driving law questioned

Texting and driving in Florida has been a violation of state law since 2013. 2,061 citations were issued related to texting and driving in the state as of January 2015. What some in the state have called an effective way to save lives, others have criticized as a toothless law.

Texting and driving is considered a secondary offense in Florida. That means you cannot be pulled over for only texting while driving. However, if an officer pulls you over for speeding, and you also happen to be texting and driving, you could be cited for both violations.

How does texting and driving compare to other violations?
Penalties issued for texting and driving were significantly lower than other traffic violations from 2013 to 2015. Drivers in the state of Florida were issued seatbelt tickets 135 times more often than a ticket for texting and driving. Seatbelt violations initially began as secondary violations in Florida just like texting and driving today. Law enforcement officers said enforcement became easier after seatbelt violations became a primary offense.

A study on texting and driving by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute says that ‘level of risk’ increases 23 times for drivers who use the phone while driving compared to undistracted drivers. The dangers of texting while driving combined with new calls for an examination of the law could mean stiffer penalties for distracted drivers.

How will this affect the current law?

Three new bills were recently introduced in the Florida state legislature this year in response to the new criticism of the law. The bills are as follows:

  • H.B 25/S.B. 246 – Texting While Driving in a School Zone
    This bill seeks to double fines for drivers who are caught texting and driving while in a posted school zone.
  • H.B. 251/S.B. 134 – Driving Safety
    This bill would change texting and driving from a secondary offense to a primary offense. If it passes, drivers could be pulled over solely for texting and driving.
  • H.B. 537/S.B. 328 – Wireless Communication Devices
    This bill is similar to driving safety and would allow law enforcement officers to treat texting and driving as a primary offense.
  • Given the new pressure toward reformation, one or a combination of two of these bills could pass the legislature in 2017. Your awareness of the law can help ensure the safety of yourself and other drivers while on the road.

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