Tougher texting and driving law needed, lawmaker says
On behalf of Brent Bradley
Critics say current law is too weak to be useful in combating distracted driving
A bill has been introduced by a Florida lawmaker that would make the state’s texting and driving laws both tougher and easier for police to enforce, according to WPTV News. Police say that the current law makes it difficult for them to pull over people for distracted driving even if they witness a driver texting on a cellphone. Critics say tougher laws are needed to effectively combat the problem of distracted driving within the state, which currently causes thousands of deaths nationwide each year.
Texting a secondary offense
The main problem with the current law, which only went into effect in October, is that it makes texting and driving a secondary offense instead of a primary offense. What that means is that police cannot pull drivers over for texting and driving unless they also witness them committing some other offense, such as speeding.
Police describe instances where they can clearly see a driver texting on his cellphone while driving, but because no other offense is being committed they are powerless to actually pull the driver over. Furthermore, critics say that current fines-which stand at $30 for a first offense and $60 for a second offense-are far too low to actually discourage distracted driving, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
A proposed bill, which lawmakers will debate when they reconvene in March, would upgrade texting and driving to a primary offense, which would therefore allow police to pull over drivers for texting and driving without the need for any other offense being committed. The bill would also double fines for drivers caught texting or emailing on their phones in school zones.
Safety advocates say the bill is needed, especially since Florida is just one of five, out of the 44 states that have banned texting and driving, that does not make the practice a primary offense. Furthermore, the issue has become a major safety concern as federal authorities say over 200,000 accidents each year are caused by drivers texting behind the wheel, resulting in thousands of preventable deaths.
While Florida’s current distracted driving laws may leave much to be desired, they are at least a reminder to all motorists that using a cellphone while behind the wheel is illegal and highly dangerous. Such distracted drivers routinely cause countless accidents and their behavior is responsible for far too many injuries and deaths.
For people who have been injured by a distracted or otherwise negligent driver it is important to reach out to a personal injury attorney right away. With expert legal advice, victims of such accidents will have somebody at their side who can fight for their rights and help pursue any claims that may arise as a result of an accident.