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.
There is talk that there will be changes in the text and driving laws. Florida still has some of the weaker laws pertaining to texting and now they are looking to strengthen those laws. It is hopeful that during the 2016 Legislative Session, a law will be passed where drivers could get pulled over and cited for texting and driving. Currently, Florida allows law enforcement to issue a citation for texting only if the driver was pulled over for another traffic offense. The new law would make texting a primary offense, allowing law enforcement to stop drivers and issue a citation even if they haven't committed another offense. The bill does not apply when a car is stopped or if drivers are using their phone to access their GPS or to receive safety-related messages, such as traffic and weather alerts. The Senator who is sponsoring the bill said he filed the bill with young drivers in mind because they are more likely to get into a car accident. Florida is one of a few states where texting and driving is a secondary offense and critics say that pre-empts law enforcement from cracking down on violators. More than 3,100 drivers have received citations for texting and driving in Florida from October 2013 to September, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. The Senator's bill keeps the current base fine, which is $30 for a first offense. Drivers pay up to $60 for a second offense while also getting three points added to their driving record. The final amount violators pay varies by county.
Distracted driving is a horrible pattern seen on all of America's roadways. In 2013, 3,154 were killed in distracted driving crashes. This represents a 6.7 percent decrease in the number of fatalities recorded in 2012. Unfortunately, approximately 424,000 people were injured, which is an increase from the 421,000 people who were injured in 2012. Thus, it is important to point out that April is National Distracted Driving Awareness month and a opportunity to remind motorists of the severity of distracted driving.