Even though texting while driving has been banned in Florida for three years, the number of distracted driving accidents across the state has increased dramatically, prompting some residents to urge politicians to make texting while driving a primary offense statewide, a proposal supported by West Palm Beach attorneys Adriana Gonzalez and Charles E. Cartwright.
"While we applaud the efforts to ban texting while driving in Florida, more clearly needs to be done to stop drivers from texting behind the wheel," Gonzalez said. "If a police officer sees someone texting while driving, that officer should be able to stop someone and issue them a ticket. Instead, the officer must now witness the driver doing something else illegal in order to pull the driver over and cite them for texting while driving. And a texting driver can wreak havoc on the roads. That's why more needs to be done to prevent such accidents."
Florida banned texting while driving statewide in 2013, as reported in the Palm Beach Post. Currently, 46 states ban the practice. In Florida, it is a secondary offense. This means a police officer must observe a driver violating another traffic law in order to cite the driver for texting while driving.
If found guilty of texting while driving, a driver can be fined $30 for the first offense. The officer must observe the driver texting in order to issue the fine. If a driver is cited for texting while driving a second time within 5 years, a fine of up to $60 can be issued and 3 points can be added to that person's driving record, according to the Palm Beach Post.
The new regulations have not reduced the number of accidents caused by distracted drivers in Florida. Instead, the number of distracted driving accidents increased by 36 percent between 2012 and 2015, according to statistics compiled by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. As a result, a recent editorial in Tampa Bay Times urged lawmakers to strengthen the state's texting while driving laws. Specifically, the newspaper urged legislators "to take the next step and make texting while driving a primary offense."
"The ban on texting as a secondary offense was a good start, and that is exactly the way the requirement to wear seat belts began," the newspaper wrote. "But just as failing to wear a seat belt became a primary offense, it's time to take the next step for the texting ban. This should be a priority for the Florida Legislature when it meets next spring."
Attorney Cartwright agreed. "Too many lives are still being lost due to texting drivers in Florida," he said. "More needs to be done. And a good place to start is changing the laws that govern texting while driving. Our law firm knows all too well just how devastating such accidents can be. That's why we hope lawmakers hear this message loud and clear."