Back in March, this blog discussed the Florida Senate’s approval of Senate Bill 52 (“Bill 52”), that sought to impose a statewide ban on texting while driving. On October 1, 2013, Bill 52, renamed “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law”, became effective. Florida’s texting ban makes it the forty-first state to adopt such prohibitions on the use of cellphones while driving. The State of Maryland also adopted a similar texting ban on October 1 of this year.
The new measure outlaws texting by motorists, but exempts police and other emergency vehicles. Texting while driving is considered a secondary offense, meaning that police can cite drivers for texting only if they have been stopped for another traffic violation such as speeding. A first violation of the law results in a $30 fine, however, if the texting causes a motor vehicle accident, the offender will also be assessed six points on his driver’s license.
Some proponents of anti-texting laws have criticized the measure for including too many exceptions and exemptions. For example, motorists are still permitted to use their cell phones when stopped red lights or stop signs and when moving, to perform certain tasks such as checking GPS and getting directions. Drivers can also send a text message to report the commission of a crime.
Further, the law allows drivers to read text messages as long as they contain address information or directions. Detractors of the law contend that this allows anyone cited for texting while driving to excuse their behavior by claiming they were looking at a map or checking directions.
According to a study conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety (“Foundation”), over two-thirds (68.8%) of surveyed individuals confessed to using their cell phone while driving at least once in the past thirty days. 31.9% admitted to doing so “fairly often or regularly.”
Further, the proliferation of texting while driving is demonstrated by crash statistics involving distracted drivers. Based on a report published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009, 5,474 people were killed on U.S. roadways and another 448,000 were injured in motor vehicle accidents that reportedly involved distracted drivers. In distracted driving crashes that resulted in a death, 995 involved a cell phone as the distraction, and, of those accidents resulting in injury, more than 24,000 involved a cell phone.
National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Administrator David Strickland praised the new law stating, “Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous and irresponsible decisions a driver can make. Florida is sending a strong message that it wants all drivers to be distraction free.”
If you, your family or friends have been involved an accident in which you sustained injuries, you may need legal representation to protect your right to compensation. The attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A. have extensive experience representing individuals who have been injured in car accidents. If you or someone you know has been injured in automobile accident, contact the attorneys of Gerson and Schwartz, P.A today.