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Florida Ban on Texting While Driving May Be Ineffective

Distracted driving poses a threat of personal injury to Florida drivers, passengers and pedestrians. The sources of potential distractions to drivers are varied, from food to passengers. However, an increasingly prominent illegal behavior behind the wheel, which has received significant legislative attention, is texting.

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    According to the Tampa Bay Times, the U.S. Department of Transportation showed that distracted driving accidents caused injury to one person every 75 seconds in 2012. A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study found that drivers who are texting are 23 times more likely to crash than those who are not. Drivers distracted by texting leave other drivers, passengers and pedestrians vulnerable to someone who may be unprepared to make quick decisions in order to avoid an accident.

    Secondary offense

    In October 2013, in response to the problem of texting while driving, the Florida legislature enacted a ban on this activity. However, unlike the majority of states with laws prohibiting texting while driving, in Florida it is only a secondary offense. To illustrate, if texting while driving were a primary offense, law enforcement would be able to pull over a driver who is seen texting while driving. As a secondary offense, the driver may only be cited for texting while driving if he or she were pulled over for another offense, such as speeding.

    Difficult to enforce

    While the enactment of a ban against texting while driving may represent a step in the right direction, some Floridians believe the law in its current form is insufficient. Even if a primary offense is observed, allowing law enforcement to cite for texting while driving, the latter offense is difficult to prove. Florida state law only allows phone records to be opened to prosecutors if an injury or death took place in consequence of the offense.

    Floridians still at risk

    Until texting while driving graduates from a secondary offense to a primary offense, distracted driving may remain prevalent. The Tampa Bay Times estimated, based on a federal study, that 40,000 Florida drivers are at this moment distracted by hand-held devices.

    With low enforcement rates (less than 2,000 citations during the first year of enforcement), Florida drivers, passengers and pedestrians are still at risk of personal injury from distracted drivers. Those who are injured in accidents may wish to consult with a personal injury attorney.

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