On October 1, Florida officially became the 41st state to ban texting while driving. Texting while driving has now been illegal for just over a month here in Florida and a survey shows that the new ban on texting has been enforced sparingly. The Clay County Sherriff’s Office reports that it has issued zero texting while driving citations thus far. Clay County isn’t the only County having trouble enforcing the law. St. John’s County reports zero citations as well, while Jacksonville said it issued three and there have been five citations issued in Lee County. Pinellas and Hillsborough County have yet to report any statistics on the issuance of texting while driving citations.
According to deputies, the statute’s language, which deems texting while driving a “secondary” offense, is making it difficult for officers to enforce the law. The implementation of the ban on texting on October 1st looked to be a step in the right direction, but the problem is that officers can only cite a driver for texting after they have committed a primary traffic offense.
“Just because a deputy sees someone driving down the road texting, he or she can’t pull that person over first for that offense. There has to be speeding or reckless driving or some other offense involved,” said Mary Justino, the Public Information Officer for the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. “What I am hearing back from our deputies is just that it’s an extremely difficult statute to enforce,” added Justino.
In addition to being a secondary offense, the texting while driving law is also difficult for officers to enforce because it has various exemptions. Drivers can still use GPS navigation on their phone, use voice to text function, and can also text, email or instant message while their vehicle is on but at a stop.
In response to the texting ban’s lack of bite, South Florida senator Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, filed a bill on October 25 in hopes of strengthening enforcement of the law. The measure (SB 322) would make texting while driving a primary offense and allow police to stop motorists and give them citations even if texting while driving was their only traffic offense. According to the proposal, the first citation will carry a fine of $30 and the second will cost $60 – the same fines as the current law. If the bill passes in the next state legislative session in March it would go into effect in October of 2014.
According to the National highway and Transportation Safety Administration, driving a vehicle while texting is six times more dangerous that driving while intoxicated. In 2012, out of the 256,443 reported crashes in Florida, 4,481 involved texting or an electronic communication device.
If you or someone you know was the victim of an accident involving a motorist who was texting while driving, give one of the experienced auto accident attorneys at the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA a call today at 727-445-6900 for a free consultation.