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Putting teeth in the Florida texting and driving law

Lake County residents might be safer from the danger a distracted driver poses if the Florida legislature approves a change in the state's ban on texting and driving.

Accidents caused by a negligent driver who might have been looking at or typing out a text were probably among the reasons why legislators made texting while driving a traffic violation; the proposed legislation would close an enforcement loophole that currently exists.

The existing law banning texting and driving makes it a secondary offense. What that means is that a police officer who sees a driver violating the law is powerless to do anything unless the person is also committing another offense.

For instance, a police officer who sees a motorist roll through a stop sign while also texting can pull the vehicle over and write tickets for texting while driving and the violation for not stopping.

The problem with the current law is that without the added offense, the officer would have been powerless to stop the vehicle. If legislators approve the change, texting while driving will become a primary offense.

Police seeing a texting violation will then have the authority to stop the vehicle and issue a ticket to the motorist even if no other violations are observed.

The safety of car accident victims from the dangers of a distracted driver might not be improved that much from the proposed change in the law. Officials recognize that laws addressing texting or checking emails on a cell phone do not address the hazard posed by a negligent driver checking the Internet, playing a game, reading maps or engaging in a variety of other common activities on cell phones.

A person injured in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver, distracted driver or reckless driver might be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and lost wages.

A personal injury attorney may be able to assist in understanding what rights Florida law extends to car accident victims against a negligent driver.

Source: WPTV, "Tougher texting while driving law proposed," Elizabeth Harrington, Dec. 1, 2014

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