Driving Towards Distraction: Florida Considers Tougher Texting Laws

Following the trend among many states such as California, Georgia, and Maryland that have implemented laws against using handheld devices when driving, the Florida state legislature has introduced legislation which would allow police to pull over and ticket drivers who are engaged in texting while driving.

Introduced by State Representative Rick Stark, the bill gives police officers the authority to ticket motorists who are texting while driving and assess a $30 fine. Currently, texting while driving is considered a "secondary" offense, which means that drivers may only be cited for texting if they are stopped by police for other reasons.

The Dangers of Texting While Driving

According to the most up to date statistics compiled by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), more than 3,000 Americans were killed in distraction-affected crashes in 2012 and an estimated 421,000 people were injured in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver. Distracted driving encompasses behaviors such as texting, using a cell phone or smartphone, and watching a video. In particular, drivers who are in their 20s make up 27 percent of distracted drivers in fatal crashes. As the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) has found, on average, drivers who text take their eyes off the road for an average of five seconds. In this amount of time, drivers who travel at a speed of 55mph will have covered the length of a football field.

Because of the known dangers of texting while driving, federal law prohibits such behavior, limiting both private drivers from engaging in texting while driving as well as any requirements by motor carriers requiring their drivers to engage in texting while operating a moving vehicle.

Utah Study on Text Messaging During Simulated Driving

In a study released by researchers from the University of Utah, simulated testing showed drivers who wrote text messages were six times more likely to crash than those who did not text while driving. Moreover, the study showed that there is a difference between conversations between the driver and passengers and cell phone conversations: the former did not substantially impair driving performance while engaging in the latter activity had detrimental effects. Yet, even more dangerous than either of these activities is text messaging, which is increasingly popular among all age groups.

When drivers attempt to divide attention from driving to texting, the processing priority of the two activities forces drivers to switch their attention from one task to the other. As drivers compose, read, or receive a text, their reaction times to external factors while driving are slowed, affecting results like brake onset time, following distance and lane maintenance. For example, when drivers switch their attention to text messaging, their reaction times to braking events are delayed. Activities such as text messaging are also often performed for extended periods which increases the window of time that drivers will be impaired. All these factors combine to increase crash risk and the likelihood of collisions.

At The Pittman Firm, we are strong proponents of safe driving which means limiting behaviors that make the roads dangerous for not only the driver and a vehicle's occupants, but for all motorists on the roads. If you have been injured in an auto accident, contact us today for assistance on your case.

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