When a person hears the familiar “ding” telling them that they got a text, it can be tempting to check what it is right away. However, one time a person should definitely not read that text and reply to it is when they’re behind the wheel of a car. Unfortunately, texting and driving in Florida is a major problem that many would say is not being properly addressed under current law.
As of right now, Florida is one of a few states where texting and driving is a secondary offense. This means that police must have a different reason for pulling a motorist over before they can cite them for texting and driving. Moreover, Florida has not implemented any system to record how many car accidents are caused by cell phone use. According to an analysis performed by the South Florida Sun Sentinel of approximately 3 million motor vehicle accidents, the number of accidents involving texting and driving is significant and problematic.
Overall, the total number of motor vehicle collisions from 2013 to 2016 went up 11 percent. However, the number of collisions caused by “careless driving” went up approximately 44 percent during that same timeframe. The types of careless driving analyzed include failing to drive in the proper lane of traffic, disobeying a stop sign, sideswiping another vehicle, improperly passing another motorist and failing to obey traffic signs or road markings.
According to one expert, the rise in careless driving crashes is due to the use of cell phones while driving. However, coming to an exact number on this issue is difficult because, except in the case of fatal accidents, police usually do not indicate whether a cell phone was used in the accident report. Moreover, drivers are not likely to admit they were using a cell phone when they were involved in an accident.
There is a bill that is working its way through the legislative process that would make texting and driving a primary offense. However, the bill would not change how much a motorist is fined for violating the law — a mere $30 — and officers would still be required to have a search warrant to examine the motorist’s phone. So, while texting and driving appears to be on lawmakers’ radar, more needs to be done to curb the incidents of car crashes caused by texting and driving.
Source: Sun Sentinel, “Crashes skyrocket as more drivers text while behind the wheel,” Erika Pesantes and John Maines, Feb. 4, 2018