On Wednesday a new bill that prohibits texting while driving in the state of Florida began that proves to be a grueling path into Legislature – where it’s suffered a slow death for the past four years – making lawmakers wonder why police can’t prosecute offenders under the existing law.
“I don’t understand why law enforcement hasn’t taken it upon themselves to use the careless driving [laws] … I just find it hard to believe so many folks have had to die,” said Sen. Greg Evers
Chris Connell, a Tallahassee Police Major said it does happen, however the new bill S.B. 52 issued by Senator Nancy Detert allows law enforcement officers to add extra punishment for texting and driving.
Opponents say Deterts bill is an invasion of a drivers privacy. An officer would have to first pull a driver over for another offense making this law a “Secondary Offense.” The first violation under the bill would cost just a mere $30 plus court costs, and a second only $60 plus court costs and six points on a drivers record.
The bill must go before two more committees before being unanimously passed out. Such things as the phone being in a docking station, the driver being stopped at a traffic light or if the car is able to drive itself, like the new Google car have caused the members of the Senate Transportation Committee to amend the bill.
Detert told senators who thought the bill should be tougher that stricter penalties would most likely kill it.
Detert also said that although the bill should pass this year that it won’t be easy.
“We are caught in between two groups — one that does not want to be told what to do in their own car and the other group that thinks it doesn’t go far enough and we should get rid of cell phones and every other thing” Detert said.
Information related to texting while driving accidents is limited, and the Florida Highway Patrol could not provide any data for review.
A report from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration claims that in 2010 3,092 people died from “distracted driving”. These deaths could possibly have been caused by driving while texting or from cellphone use in general.
Out of 50 states, Florida is one of only six that do not have texting while driving laws in place. Hawaii however does have local ordinances on each island that prohibit it.
Another anti-texting bill, H.B. 13 has also been filled however it must go through three committees before going to the floor.
When you think of the statistics, texting while driving is equal to driving blind for approximately 5 seconds or drinking 4 beers and is about 6 times more likely to cause an accident than driving while intoxicated.
AT&T is also a huge supporter of the ban, and has recently begun a campaign against it. AARP also released information this week showing that 93% of drivers in Florida 50 and older support the ban.