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Bill to Ban Texting and Driving in Florida Spotlighted

Debate rages on among Florida lawmakers, who continue to wrestle with the merits of enacting a statewide ban on texting while driving.

It’s a two-sided coin.

A ban would likely mean a sharp decrease in the number of distracted driving crashes across the state – an obvious plus.

But how easy will it be to enforce?

Our Coral Springs car accident attorneys have seen the devastating aftermath that can result when drivers don’t pay attention to the road.

Texting behind the wheel was known to cause nearly 5,500 deaths in 2009, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).

Florida is among the few states that have yet to approve any sort of ban on texting while driving. Throughout the country, 39 other states have passed some form of legislation regarding the issue.

But it’s not for lack of trying.

Capitol News Service reports that Florida state Senator Nancy Detert has made three previous failed attempts to adopt such a law.

This time may be different.

Just a few days into the current legislative session, the new bill, known as SB 416, needs the rubber stamp of just one more committee before it will head to the Senate floor. A companion bill in the House of Representatives, HB 299, has not yet been opened for discussion.

In multiple media interviews, Detert likened texting while driving to drunk driving, saying the results are just as deadly.

While the outlook is positive, the measure is not without dissenting opinions.

Republican Senator Joe Negron, for example, took issue with the enforceability aspect. In an interview with the Miami Herald, Negron wondered how a police officer could accurately tell the difference between a driver texting and, say, checking their calendar on their phone.

He also argued that such a law would be redundant because the state already has laws against reckless driving.

Other lawmakers, meanwhile, wonder if the bill goes far enough. Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla wants to add language in the bill that would increase the penalties if the offender was texting behind the wheel while in a school zone.

“Schools should be safe havens, and that includes the area where people drop off their children or where children walk to school,” the senator told a Miami Herald reporter.

A recent study by Monash University found that drivers who used handheld devices were four times as likely to be involved in an accident. Further, the NHTSA reports that drivers who text are 23 times as likely to crash.

This is also alarming when you consider that there were 196 billion text messages sent in June 2011 alone — and that’s an increase of 50 percent from two years prior.

That means your risk of a distracted-driving crash in Coral Springs and elsewhere is escalating dramatically.

For each text, the NHTSA found, drivers took their eyes off the road an average of 4.6 seconds, or roughly the length of a football field if you’re going 55 miles per hour.

Perhaps that’s why some groups, such as the Florida Sheriffs Association, are now coming forward to back Detert’s efforts.

If you or a loved one have been injured in a distraction-related car accident in Coral Springs or elsewhere in South Florida, contact Freeman, Mallard, Gonzalez & Sharp to discuss your rights. Call us for a free consultation at 1-800-529-2368.

Additional Resources:

Texting Ban Passes Second Committee, By Whitney Ray, Capitol News Service

Ban on texting while driving coasts through a second committee, The Miami Herald

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Make the New Year’s Resolution to Curb Distractions to Reduce Risks of Car Accidents in Fort Lauderdale

Florida Still Pushing for Laws to Curb Distraction-Related Car Accidents in Miramar and Elsewhere

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