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Making Texting While Driving a Primary Offense in Florida

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 2015 alone saw 3,477 lives lost just because of distracted driving. When people fail to pay attention to the road when operating a vehicle, they not only put their own lives at risk, but also those of everyone around them.

Distracted driving is one of the biggest challenges facing both motorists and lawmakers. What is being done, and how might new laws impact driver distraction in Florida?

One of the common causes of deadly distracted driving is texting. When people glance down at their phones for just a few seconds while driving at 55 miles per hour, they could easily drive the length of a football field. This, like any other activity that diverts the driver’s attention from the road, can quickly result in fatal mistakes that can hurt the drivers themselves, their passengers, and those in other vehicles.

In an effort to combat distracted driving, several states have begun passing laws aimed at reducing or, ideally, eliminating this deadly behavior. Florida has also begun to investigate the potential for these laws. Recently, at the end of October 2017, lawmakers successfully cleared some hurdles to allow them to pass a similar law in our state. Here is what Florida drivers should know about these distracted driving laws and their potential impact.

What is the Florida distracted driving law that will be passed?

Lawmakers in Florida want to pass a law that will make texting while driving a primary offense. This means that drivers can be pulled over and cited for texting while operating a moving vehicle without having to commit another offense first. Previously, police officers could cite drivers committing this dangerous activity only if they broke another driving law first. They could then add the texting citation as a secondary offense. This will now change, making it easier for police officers to take action against those they see using their phones while driving.

Florida actually remains one of the few states that does not have texting-while-driving listed as a primary offense, and organizations such as AAA have been lobbying heavily for this new law to pass. It is important to note, however, that the law specifically mentions the word ‘texting’ as being the offending action. This means that other actions, such as checking a GPS map on the phone while driving, will still not be listed as primary offenses. This may make enforcement difficult for police officers as they try to determine which behavior the driver is engaging in. Regardless, however, many see the bill as a strong step forward in the right direction to reduce distracted driving in the state.

How well do these anti-distracted driving laws work?

As these laws quickly spread across the country, looking at how well they actually work can be a priority for lawmakers and civilians alike. An important examination can be made in New Mexico, where speaking on hand-held cellphones while driving has been illegal since 2002, and texting while driving has been outlawed since 2014. Despite the laws, the statistics from the state have shown an actual increase in the number of crashes caused by distracted driving, while the number of tickets issued has been decreasing. Although there were 2,000 tickets issued for cellphone violations in 2005, only 424 were issued between January and August 2017.

It appears that one of the central problems of the laws has been enforcement. Police officers report that many of the citations they issue end up in court, which means that they will have to take officers off the street to ensure that the tickets they issue are enforced. This causes the law enforcement officers to limit the number of cell phone-related tickets they issue in order to avoid being shorthanded.

Nationwide, many states have seen similar problems. People often change their behavior, such as switching to hands-free talking, but the amount of distracted driving does not decrease. Unfortunately, even hands-free technology can distract drivers, as AAA has found. At just 25 miles per hour, drivers can easily be impaired for the length of two football fields. Shockingly, many of the youngest drivers do not even have many qualms about distracted driving. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that younger drivers do not necessarily believe that cellphone usage while driving is wrong.

It is clear that while these laws are a step in the right direction, limiting distracted driving still needs a variety of other factors, including strong enforcement and education, to make a genuine difference in traffic collisions.

What should I do if I was injured by a distracted driver?

Those injured by a distracted driver should speak with an attorney who focuses on personal injury law. They will help you evaluate your case, collect any necessary evidence, and work for the judgment you deserve. At Stabinski & Funt, you can trust that we will be dedicated completely to your case and that we have the experience you want fighting for your rights.

If you have any questions about this topic or believe that someone else’s negligence or recklessness is responsible for your injuries, the attorneys at Stabinski & Funt, P.A. can help. For 45 years, we have been the trusted advocates for countless personal injury victims and their families throughout South Florida. We offer risk-free consultations and work on a contingency basis, which means that we do not require you to pay any fees until we have secured a recovery on your behalf. Contact us today by calling 305-964-8644 or filling out a free case evaluation form to find out how we can help you.

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