Florida’s new law fails to provide strict regulations on a dangerous driving habit.
You’ve seen the horrific PSA’s on television—the deceased’s last words on their phone screen just before they were killed or killed someone else, usually something along the lines of “ttyl” or “C u soon.”
Despite the government’s macabre attempts in deterring drivers from texting or checking the occasional email while on the road, many still continue to do so. But will our behaviors change with the passing of the new texting-while-driving law that went into effect on Oct. 1? I doubt it. The law only bans manual texting while driving, allowing drivers to continue their conversations (dare I say sexts?) while stopped in traffic or at a traffic light. In addition to that, texting has been labeled a “secondary offense”–meaning that a law enforcement officer has to pull you over for a seatbelt violation or for speeding before he/she can actually ticket you for texting. If you do get pulled over for texting, the fine is a mere $30, the second violation upped to $60 in addition to points against your driver’s license. However, don’t roll your eyes at the ban just yet. While the law clearly is lacking any kind of teeth, drivers who cause accidents due to use of their phone can face severe legal repercussions, such as wrongful death lawsuits and murder charges.
With that in mind, 23% of auto collisions in 2011 involved cell phones. That’s nearly 1.3 million crashes a year. The odds aren’t looking too good. Even if you think you’re a “pro” texter while driving, the average 5 seconds you spend staring at your phone screen instead of focusing on the road at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field completely blind.
If a driver who texts is 6 times more likely to cause an accident than a drunk driver, you’d actually be better off driving down Holt Avenue hammered than texting. While $30 isn’t much, the implications of texting while driving are very real, and it won’t be long until it becomes a primary offense. From now on, I’ll be sure to keep my phone in my bag or employ a passenger to act as my text-cretary next time I hit the road.