We are all aware that texting while driving became illegal in Florida in 2013, but it’s only a secondary offense. That means the driver must be pulled over for something else first. According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2015 a total of 39,468 people were injured and 216 more were killed as a result of distracted driving. Forty-six states think texting and driving is so dangerous it’s banned. Will Florida be next? Many are pushing for it, but there are those in the state House that say the cost of freedom is too high. The legislation has cleared two Senate committees, but its sponsor, Senator Rene Garcia, is not optimistic. “I think it’s on life support, unfortunately. I hear that the house is reluctant to move the bill,” Garcia said. Last week the Senate Committee on Communications, Energy and Public Utilities discussed SB 144 introduced by Sen. Rene Garcia, R-Hialeah. The committee approved the bill that’s in its infancy, while agreeing it needs more work.
. Among the questions raised:
• Why stop at texting? Shouldn’t any use of an electronic device, such as making a phone call, emailing, Googling or using other applications also be banned?
• What proof is there that a texting-while-driving ban reduces crashes?
• How can a law enforcement officer determine whether someone is texting while driving?
• How would enforcement work when there’s a 2014 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found law enforcement must get a warrant to search someone’s cellphone?
A study published in the American Journal of Public Health shows that crash-related hospitalizations fell by 7 percent in states that have passed the bans.
As noted above, the biggest obstacle is House and in particular, Speaker-in-Waiting Jose Oliva. WJHG asked for an interview, but House Spokesman Fred Piccolo provided us with a statement saying the House had not yet formulated a position. In 2013, Representative Oliva told us, “I, like everyone else, want to see the end of children texting and getting killed in automobiles. Not at the expense of our civil liberties.” House Sponsor Emily Slosberg believes it could be 2021, after Oliva is out of the legislature, before the bill could pass. The legislation would allow police to stop drivers seen texting without observing some other violation first.
If you or a loved one has been injured or died as a result of a distracted driving, you can get experienced help at Brannon & Brannon. Contact us for a free consultation at (850)659-2252 or through our website at brannoncanhelp.com