For those of us Floridians who cringe when we see someone behind the wheel texting on their phone, a new law effective Oct. 1 will be a welcome relief - sort of. Texting while driving in Florida is now illegal. However, advocates have been fighting for the law feel it should have gone farther.
Florida has joined the vast majority of states to ban texting or e-mailing behind the wheel. It became the 41st state to pass such a law when Governor Rick Scott signed the bill earlier this year.
Unfortunately for those who advocate a ban on texting, the new law makes it only a secondary offense. That means that a driver cannot be stopped by a police officer solely for tapping away on their phone while driving down I-95 unless they are committing another violation, such as speeding. Even then, the penalty for the initial instance of texting while driving is just a $30 fine.
Even this first step in stopping serial texters has been awhile in coming. Republicans in Florida's House of Representatives have successfully fought efforts for the legislation for five years. Even though he signed the bill into law, Governor Scott vetoed the accompanying provision that earmarked $1 million in state funds to explain the law to the public. Instead, the state will use electronic road signs to notify drivers.
While advocates for a texting ban are not happy with the relative weakness of the law, it is at least a first step in cutting down the number of auto accidents caused by texting. Statistics show that there were nearly two hundred of these last year in Florida, although there were likely more.
It will be interesting to see if this new law, imperfect as it may be, is enforced, and if it impacts the number of accidents caused by texting and e-mailing. If a driver is involved in an accident, it is possible to determine if he or she was texting at the time of the accident. This can make liability in a civil case against the texting driver easier to determine, as well.
Source: ActionNewsJax.com, "Law banning texting while driving goes into effect Tuesday" No author given, Sep. 30, 2013