Driving a motor vehicle takes certain skills and abilities, and some of us are better at it than others. The very act of driving requires multi-tasking, so any time you add another task to focus on while driving your chances of driving unsuccessfully increases tremendously. Unsuccessful driving means that, at the very least, there will be property damage and at the very most, someone may be killed. Driving is one of those everyday tasks that we undertake without much thought about the outcome. Young drivers tend to think that they are impervious to the negative effects poor driving habits may cause, while more seasoned drivers will get behind the wheel without much thought as to what can happen between Points A and B because it has become just part of our daily routine.
No one gets behind the wheel thinking, “I am going to get into an accident today, or cause someone else to have one,” but it happens every day, over and over, and no one ever thinks it will be them. Granted, a good driver needs to have confidence in his or her abilities. Indecision when driving can cause a motorist to be just as much of a threat as someone who is otherwise impaired. Being overly confident in one’s abilities can also be deadly. You cannot adjust your radio, reprimand the kids in the back seat, talk on your cell phone, et cetera, and still focus well enough on your driving to not be a danger to others. This is the crux of a new bill that has been filed in Florida which is to be considered during the next legislative session.
Texting while driving has been a source of controversy for years and as of last year, it was made a secondary offense in the State of Florida which means that a cop can’t pull a driver over for texting, but they can write a citation for it if the driver gets a traffic ticket for another reason, such as speeding. This new bill; however, would make it a primary offense allowing police officers to pull people over who they see texting while driving.
This bill was filed by State Representative Rick Stark who was quoted as saying that texting and driving is “something everyone’s guilty of, but everyone’s guilty of speeding, everyone’s guilty of running a red light, and the police can pull you over for those.”
Stark’s bill would result in a traffic ticket that carries a fine of $30 which is the conventional traffic fine for a non-moving violation. Senator Maria Sachs submitted a similar bill to the State Senate which would mandate that texting while driving in a school zone would result in doubling the amount of the fine.
In an attempt to ease the bill into law at a more gradual pace, State Representative Irv Slosberg also filed a bill that is a compromise to those of Stark and Sachs. The bill filed by Slosberg would make texting in a school zone a primary offense while otherwise keeping it as a secondary offense in other areas. Additionally, he also filed a bill that would result in a second-degree felony charge if someone is fatally injured by a driver who is texting while driving.
Road safety is of particular concern to Slosberg. His commitment to making sure fewer families suffer from the tragedy of losing a loved one to automobile accidents arises from losing his own 14-year-old daughter in a fatal crash back in 1996. Although committed to texting law reform, Slosberg believes that these kinds of changes occur in small increments as evidenced by his push for the law to make wearing a seatbelt mandatory in Florida. It is not a law that was enacted overnight; it was passed as a minor infraction in 2004 and became a primary offense as of 2009.
“It’s not that I don’t want Stark’s bill to succeed – I do – but, you know, it’s my 11th year here,” Slosberg said. “And I’ve learned that things don’t get done overnight. They happen in little steps – bites at the apple.”
“I’ve been talking with Stark, Slosberg, and others,” Sachs said. “This is a compromise bill that we think we can get through the House and Senate. We gave it a year as a secondary offense, and it really hasn’t worked that well. But it has at least started to bring in the idea of a culture of safety.”
Senator Sachs disagrees with Slosberg’s view that these things happen over time, and she very well may be right. In 2013, the current texting while driving bill passed with very little opposition from other legislators, passing the House 110-6.
Don’t think that you will get a pass from law enforcement while this bill is still up for consideration. If a cop sees you texting and driving, he can find other primary reasons to write you a traffic ticket readily enough and add texting while driving as the secondary offense.
Many proponents of a ban on texting while driving liken it to drinking and driving. Although drinking impairs one’s judgment, texting takes a driver’s focus off of the road for several seconds at a time. One governmental study showed that whether sending a text or reading a text, a driver’s attention is taken off of the road for nearly 5 seconds. This bit information should make anyone who texts while driving reconsider the danger that doing so presents.