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
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!