Federal agency proposes ban on using cellphones while driving

Florida’s lack of a ban on cellphone use while driving may change.

A federal agency has proposed an almost total ban on the use of cellphones and other electronic devices behind the wheel, hoping that this will help decrease the number of car accidents. The proposal from the National Transportation Safety Board comes in the form of a recommendation, which can be adopted or rejected by individual states.

The change, if adopted, would encompass both talking and texting while driving, or browsing the web. It would not exempt hands-free cellphones and devices.

In Florida, such restrictions would break new ground, as the state currently has no restrictions at all on the use of cellphones or portable electronic devices by motorists. Only 15 states currently have no such restrictions, although not a single state currently bans the use of hands-free phones.

The agency’s recommended ban was inspired, in part, by a fatal car accident in 2010 in which a teenage driver of a pickup truck apparently received and sent a total of no less than 11 texts in the same number of minutes before an accident that wound up killing the driver, as well as a passenger on a school bus.

The thought behind the proposed ban is that drivers currently get distracted by focusing on the content of phone calls, texts, or web pages, regardless of whether or not hands-free devices are used. This, the agency unanimously concluded, causes car accidents that could be prevented.

State senators in Florida are mulling a softer option, which would outlaw texting while driving. However, it would be subject to secondary enforcement, meaning the citation would have to be connected to another offense.

Source: Pensacola News Journal, “Feds push to ban cellphones while driving could bolster state law,” Richard McVay, Dec. 13, 2011