Distracted driving is one of the biggest threats on our roadways today. Our society encourages, and sometimes seems to even require, multitasking. As citizens of this busy world, our team understands the desire to feel connected at all times and to use driving time for more than just getting to your next destination. As part of The Pittman Firm, a law firm for Panama City car accident injuries, we also know that multitasking behind the wheel is dangerous and leads directly to serious accidents. One form of multitasking that is a particular threat to road safety, and one the state legislature is currently pondering, is texting while driving.
The News Herald is covering the progress of a texting ban, reporting on Wednesday that the state Senate Transportation Committee unanimously passed a provision that would ban texting while driving. The bill now moves to the Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee. Under SB52, texting would be a secondary offense, meaning police could only issue a ticket if they've already pulled the driver over for another violation. Some expressed disappointment in that categorization and in the limited $35 fine (plus court costs) attached to the texting offense.
State Senator Nancy Detert (R-Venice) proposed the measure and has been advocating for the ban for 4 years. She says one goal is to train younger generations to adopt safer behavior. She cited the seatbelt law – the safety measure wasn't always so commonplace, but the seatbelt law and related education has conditioned younger people to buckle up as soon as they get in the car.
Some state senators, including Senators Evers and Lee, suggested the texting ban should be added to an existing statute, such as those outlawing careless and reckless driving, rather than being crafted as an entirely new statute. Evers noted texting could even be banned right now under the definition of reckless driving, and it would carry a significantly larger $252 fine. Lee adds that he thinks it is better to start with a more robust bill and see how that fares, allowing the House to amend it if they disagree with the stricter language. However, Detert says the bill stands a better chance of passing as a separate statute and as a secondary offense.
Notably, a similar ban (HB13, lodged in the House Transportation & Highway Safety Subcommittee) has not received any committee time in the state House and is not slated for any.
The U.S. Department of Transportation has created a website, Distraction.gov, focused on the danger of distracted driving. On the statistics page, the DOT notes that 3,331 people were killed and 387,000 injured in distracted driving crashes in 2011. They also share another scary fact: sending or receiving a text message pulls a driver's eyes away from the roadway for, on average, 4.6 seconds. If the driver is travelling at 55mph, this means looking away for the entire length of a football field. While the DOT lists a number of dangerous distractions (i.e. personal grooming, eating or drinking, and using a navigation system), it notes that texting is particularly dangerous because it requires shifting visual, manual, and cognitive attention away from the task of driving.
We serve the Panhandle region as a Panama City injury law firm, and we are here to help if you have been injured by a distracted driver. We also believe in prevention. While the DOT can educate people about distracted driving, passenger car driving regulations are generally up to state governments. We hope the state of Florida makes preventing distracted driving a top priority. We also encourage our readers to sign, and follow, the distracted driving pledge and promise to truly focus on the task of driving. This pledge can truly save lives.