National traffic data from the Fatality Accident Report system suggests that texting while driving has been responsible for more than 15,000 fatal car accidents over a six-year period. Research has also indicated that distracted driving is the likely cause of more than 15 percent of all traffic fatalities. As many as 80 percent of Americans admit using their cell phones while driving, and texting behind the wheel is an epidemic among teen drivers.
In an effort to reduce the toll of distraction-related traffic accidents and injuries, at least 30 states, the District of Columbia, and numerous cities across the nation have enacted bans or restrictions on cell phone use and texting while driving — but not Florida.
Earlier this year, the Florida Senate passed a texting ban, but the House didn’t take up the proposal. A new proposal was filed at the end of November in the Senate, however.
Under the new bill (SB 80), sending or reading text messages, e-mails, or similar forms of communication would be a noncriminal traffic violation carrying a $100 fine. The new bill carries a steeper fine than the one proposed earlier in the year, which called for a $30 fine for a first offense and increasing fines for subsequent offenses.
During his campaign, incoming governor Rick Scott refused to commit to a texting ban. He agreed that driver distraction causes car wrecks and should be discouraged, but he equated texting while driving with other forms of distraction such as eating fast food while behind the wheel. He has not been asked about the issue since his election.
“I will work with legislators that share my concern to adopt policies that address distracted driving,” Scott said during the campaign.
SB 80 has been referred to a number of Senate committees, but the House has not yet agreed to take up the issue of a text messaging ban.
Source: NorthEscambia.com, “Texting While Driving Bill Will BRB,” David Royse, December 7, 2010