The Florida House passed a bill to ban texting while driving May 1, but it is uncertain whether the measure will ever become law.
Although the House approved the anti-texting bill by a 110-6 margin, a major hurdle remains for the measure, which is intended to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents in Florida. Now it heads back to the Senate for consideration of an amendment the House added at the last minute.
Under the amendment, police would be able to use drivers’ mobile phone records to prove a texting-while-driving offense only when the texting caused a crash resulting in death or personal injury. In March, the Senate unanimously passed a version of the bill that did not contain the added language.
Boca Raton Democrat Rep. Irv Slosberg told WPTV that he would hate to see time run out on the bill because an amendment was put on.
Slosberg referred to distracted driving a “mass epidemic” in Florida. Recent research shows that people who text while driving are 23 times more likely to be in an accident than people who don’t.
Rep. Doug Houder, another anti-texter who helped move the bill through the house, stated that texting while driving was similar to driving blind for five seconds, traveling the distance of entire football field. He also compared texting while driving to drinking four beers quickly and then getting behind the wheel.
The bill makes texting while driving a secondary offense, which means that police officers first have to stop drivers for another offense. An initial violation amounts to a $30 fine plus court costs, while a second or subsequent violation within a five-year period adds three points to the driver’s license and carries a $60 fine.
The ban includes sending or receiving texts while driving, and includes tablet computers as well as mobile phones. However, the ban excludes talk-to-text devices, and allows texting while the vehicle is stopped at a red light.
AT&T, the AAA, AARP, trial lawyers, businesses, and state law enforcement groups all support the bill. Governor Rick Scott has indicated that he will sign it if it reaches his desk.
Seven Facts About the Dangers of Distracted Driving:
- Deaths caused by distracted driving in Florida and other states rose 22 percent in five years, according to the latest research.
- A total of 39 states and the District of Columbia have already implemented texting-while-driving bans for all drivers.
- According to a preliminary report from the State Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 4,841 auto crashes in Florida in 2012 in which a driver had been texting or using a portable electronic device.
- Nationally, 18 percent of injury crashes in 2010 were distraction-affected wrecks.
- In the month of June 2011, 196 billion text messages were sent or received in the U.S., a nearly 50 percent increase from a year earlier.
- Drivers who use hand-held devices are four times more likely to get into serious crashes.
- Distracted driving caused more than 400,000 injuries and 3,000 deaths in the U.S. in 2010, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA).
- WPTV NBC News Channel 5
- Tallahassee Herald-Tribune Politics
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration