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Road Rage Genesis: Law Banning Texting a Long-Overdue Correction

| April 18, 2013

How reassuring is that? (Lord Jim)

How reassuring is that? (Lord Jim)

By Margo C. Pope

The bane of my existence is the driver ahead of me who misses the light change because he or she is texting away while stopped. These are the drivers so engrossed in their texting that they don’t see traffic move ahead of them through the green light. And then, as it is turning yellow, they speed through, leaving me stopped.

Talk about road rage.

Margo C. Pope

Margo C. Pope

The hoped-for new law on banning texting while driving in Florida won’t help me or you when we are behind the rabid texter at a traffic light. Drivers will still get to text then, the proposed law says. UGH.

And the ban won’t be the primary offense, so the driver will have to be doing something else first to attract the cop – like speeding or doing drugs. Florida’s first seat-belt law started out as a secondary offense before becoming a first offense in 2009. Maybe we will be so lucky to see the texting-while-driving-ban become the main offense, too.

The Florida Senate approved a ban on texting Tuesday, but final legislative approval awaits a vote by the House. Gov. Rick Scott, according to news reports, indicated he supports the ban. If the legislation is enacted into law, Florida will likely be the 40th state to do so, according to The Palm Beach Post. I’m encouraged that tourist-mecca Florida may finally take this step.

Congratulations to the two legislators who filed the bills that got this far. State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, sponsored her bill for four years (SB 52). Likewise, state Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, pushed his for four years also (HB13). Though both bills are now listed as committee substitutes for the original bills, give Detert and Holder points for persistence.

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The fines are small by most standards: $30 plus court costs for the first offense, and $60 plus three points on your driving record for each future offense within five years of the first. But that is on top of the fines for the primary violation that must occur before the cop can add on the texting ban fine.

As the bills got worked over, a posting this week on my Facebook feed from the Today Show included the front of a cell phone with a text on it that ended, “Seeya soon” but with what looked like another word started. A 22-year-old college student in Colorado was killed on April 3, the report said, when he lost control of his vehicle after he overcorrected while texting. The vehicle flipped over. He died at the scene. Colorado has a “no texting while driving ban.” His family went on TV and to their local paper to get the word out that no text is worth your life.

(Now I am going to pause for the readers who are going to say, “It’s my choice to text; personal freedom is at stake.”)

In Florida in 2012, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 256,443 traffic crashes and of those 4,841 were caused by a driver using some form of electronic device.

Will this ban save lives? Maybe, maybe not. There are studies that say it won’t make a difference based on other states where the ban is in effect. But the force of law, enforcement, paying a fine plus court costs, increased fines for future offenses and points on a driver’s record that could lead to increased insurance rates are all pluses in favor of slowing down this dangerous behavior.

It’s time for a culture change, too. A change that says, as hokey as it may sound to some people, “When you get behind the wheel, what matters most is your safety, the safety of those with you and around you on the road. Keep both hands on the wheel.”

Margo C. Pope worked for The St. Augustine Record and The Florida Times-Union for 42 years covering education, city and county government, tourism and open government issues. She retired in August after five years as The Record’s editorial page editor. She can be reached by email here.

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6 Responses for “Road Rage Genesis: Law Banning Texting a Long-Overdue Correction”

  1. Anon says:

    Tell it, Sister!

  2. Sherry Epley says:

    Excellent article! Although the fines are just a slap on the wrist, it’s a beginning.

    The entire perspective of “my personal rights” are more important the “public’s rights” to safety needs to change, and soon!

    And this from the National Safety Council web site:

    The National Safety Council estimates that at
    least 24% of crashes in 2010 involved drivers using
    cell phones, including 1.1 million crashes where
    drivers were talking on cell phones and a minimum
    of 160,000 crashes where drivers were texting.5
    These estimates include property damage, injury
    and fatal crashes.
    Several research studies found that the risk of a
    crash is four times as likely when a person is using
    a cell phone – handheld or hands-free.6 7 Cell phone
    distraction involves all types of driver distractions:
    visual, manual and cognitive. More than 30 research
    studies have found that hands-free devices offer no
    safety benefit, because hands-free devices do not
    eliminate the cognitive distraction of conversation

  3. tulip says:

    The way this law is written is a joke. The idiot people that text and drive will never obey it anyway. A driver can’t be pulled over if seen texting? Why not? A driver can be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt, broken light, etc.

    The fine should be larger and if a driver is involved in an accident while texting then his or her insurance rates should go waaay up for a couple of years.

    If you’re behind someone who is texting and the light turns green, after 2 or 3 seconds I blast my horn at them—that gets their attention.

  4. Deep South says:

    If the driver is texting, and it causes an accident, then the driver will be charged with causing the accident.

  5. r&r says:

    Cell phone use should also be banned while operating a moving vehicle.

  6. markingthedays says:

    Wow! A whole 1.8% of all the accidents were caused by using an electronic device? How many of those 1.8% were also distracted by the other people in the car, the sun in their eyes, or the squirrel running across the street in front of them? I have an ex who rear-ended someone while putting makeup on in her rearview mirror. I was the passenger in a wreck when the the driver reached down into the floor to pick up a dropped cassette tape. I just consider those people bad drivers. If either of them happened to have a cell phone at the time (admittedly, they didn’t exist then), would the accident have been blamed on electronic devices?

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