With Florida’s regular legislative session approaching, supporters of a ban against texting while driving are optimistic that legislation will finally pass during the upcoming session. As reported by the Miami Herald, lawmakers have introduced 17 bills on the issue this year. So far, at least 35 lawmakers are sponsors or co-sponsors of bills banning texting while driving and Governor Charlie Crist has also announced his support. At least 28 other states have limited texting while driving in some fashion.
“Florida is ready to say we are no longer going to tolerate this irresponsible activity,” said state Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota. Many studies have been publicized over the past several months showing how texting can lead to car accidents and deaths from automobile crashes. As I’ve written about previously on this blog, one study by Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute found that drivers of heavy trucks were 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash if texting, and drivers using an electronic device were six times more likely to have an automobile accident.
However, there are some interests that will try to block any of these measures and supporters have compared the texting issue to Florida’s mandatory seatbelt law which took 10 years to pass. Much of the opposition to the mandatory seatbelt law centered around concerns that it was a government intrusion on a driver’s freedom to choose whether or not to wear a seatbelt. “I think there are people who were concerned and that we were trying to regulate persons’ lives,” said state Sen. Frederica Wilson of Miami, who has twice sponsored similar legislation. “I think now because of national attention it will pass.”
However, many questions about how far the law will go need to be addressed. Should it apply to all drivers or just teenagers? Also, just as in the prior debate on the seatbelt issue, should police be able to stop drivers for texting or only charge drivers with texting if they first commit some other offense? Either way, although we all enjoy the convenience of staying in touch with friends, family, and work through texting, the time of texting while driving may be over in Florida. That’s a good thing for public safety on Florida’s roadways. To tell us what you think, vote in our poll on our facebook page or leave a comment.