Texting Driving Ban Signed Into Law
Gov. Rick Scott signed Florida’s first ban on texting and driving into law at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School this week. Set to go into effect on Oct. 1, 2013, the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law” (SB 52) has already come under criticism for being too weak, leaving a lot to be desired in the realm of enforcement.
The new law makes texting while driving a secondary offense, which means drivers would have to be stopped by a police officer for another violation such as speeding or running a red light to be charged. Officers are also not allowed to require drivers to hand over their phone as proof that they had been texting.
The New Texting And Driving Law At A Glance:
- Texting while driving is a secondary offense.
- First violation of the law is punishable as a nonmoving violation with a first-time fine of $30 plus court costs.
- A second violation within five years of the first violation carries a $60 fine and court costs.
If a driver’s violation of the texting and driving ban results in a crash, six points will be added to the offender’s driver’s license record. Two points will be added for unlawful use of a cellphone if a driver is guilty of a moving violation within a school safety zone. This is in addition to points for the moving violation.
Drivers can still use cellphones in moving vehicles under specific circumstances, including for navigational purposes, weather alerts, radio use, use of talk-to-text systems such as Siri on the iPhone or reporting criminal activity via text or email. Drivers may also use their cellphones while stopped in traffic or at a red light. The ban allows authorities to access phone records as proof in court that drivers were texting and driving only if the accident results in death or personal injury.
While enforcement may become an issue for police officers, Scott has stated that it is an important first step toward reducing deaths related to texting while driving. But it’s a soft start, considering the U.S. Department of Transportation advocates a full ban on texting and cellphone use behind the wheel; even hands-free cellphone use increases crash risk by four times while texting increases crash risk by eight times, according to Driveithome.org.
Distraction.gov, “One Text or Call Could Wreck it All”
The Miami Herald, “Rick Scott signs texting-while-driving ban, but does it have teeth?,” Rochelle Koff, Gina Cherelus, May 28, 2013