11 Oct. 2013

Florida Bans Texting & Driving, But Will It Really Make a Difference?

Posted By Darrigo, Diaz & Jimenez

As of October 1, Florida’s new ban on texting and driving has taken effect. But as many argue, this new “secondary” law will really not make our roads — or our behaviors – any safer.

The new ban on texting is called a secondary offense because police cannot pull over drivers unless they commit another infraction in addition to texting. At that point, the officer can write a $30 ticket for the phone use for a first offense. Police are hoping the new ban serves as a deterrent for texting and driving, however they are quick to admit that it will do little to change what is now the common driving position of one hand at 10 o’clock and the other hand at…holding a cell phone.

Statistics for 2012 show that Florida recorded 4,841 phone-related crashes. And across the country, the National Safety Council found that there is a cell phone-related accident in the country every 24 seconds, or about 1.3 million times per year. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents in 2010 and using a phone ups the likelihood of a crash by 23. In addition to the potential of getting a traffic citation for texting, drivers should also consider the increased penalties in the case of negligent accident while texting.

In fact, if you cause a car accident while on the phone, you could face personal injury or wrongful death lawsuits, as well as even murder charges in the most egregious cases.

You’ve Heard of Second-Hand Smoke – How About Second-Hand Texting?

It’s not just drivers who can now be considered negligent in an auto accident involving a cell phone. In fact, you don’t have to even be in the car. Listen to this: In a recent car accident case in New Jersey, a judge suggested that “a person who is not even in the vehicle can be liable for sending a text to a driver who then has an accident if he or she has reasonable cause to suspect the person is driving.” Just think of the legal and societal ramifications that this notion can set into motion if this scenario gains momentum on the legal dockets.

Nationally, laws vary by state and are constantly being updated. Currently, 12 states plus Washington, D.C., ban handheld phone use while driving outright. In total, 41 states plus D.C. ban texting. There are numerous additional rules for novice drivers and school bus operators. Florida is the most recent state to tighten its law, along with Maryland, which just upgraded its phone law from a secondary to a primary offense, meaning that you can get pulled over by the cops if they so much as spot a telephone in your hand.

One state legislator has already proposed a bill to change the law in Florida from secondary to primary as well. We at DDJ hope that this happens…and quickly. Our roads are getting more and more dangerous every day, and cell-phone use is one of the main contributors to this trend. Research shows that the mind can remain distracted up to 90 seconds after sending a text…imagine the degree of distraction while the brain is actually engaged in the act of texting?!!!

Please remember to put your cell phone completely out of sight while driving and do not ever text and drive. And if you’re thinking about texting someone who you believe may be behind the wheel, hold off on sending that all-important message. Believe it or not…it can wait!

Categories: Personal Injury
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