Texting while driving in Florida has been illegal for close to two years now but the impact of the law has been called into question by many safety advocates. The law lacks any real regulatory enforcement authority because it is not considered a primary offense. A police officer cannot stop a texting driver if that’s the only driving violation the officer finds. In Florida, in order for someone to be charged with texting while driving, the driver must have committed some other driving violation such as speeding in order to be stopped. Police have issued just 34 hundred citations, in part because texting is a secondary offense, which means motorists must first have been stopped for some other violation.
Yet, the reality supports stronger enforcement measures. There were more than 45,000 crashes caused by distracted drivers last year in Florida. 214 people died. Of the dead, 198 were drivers. Texting while driving is a common occurrence and one that leads to auto accidents in Pinellas County and the Tampa Bay region.
Nationally, the problem is similarly serious to the one we experience in Tampa Bay. The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.
Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.
1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk.
Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field.
Texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road.
Of all cell phone related tasks, texting is by far the most dangerous activity.
94% of drivers support a ban on texting while driving.
74% of drivers support a ban on hand-held cell phone use.
Texting while driving is not just distracted driving its dangerous driving. It’s as dangerous as drunk driving. Texting while driving can lead to road rage incidents which is another huge problem in Pinellas and surrounding counties. Five texting bills, including primary enforcement, were introduced in the Florida 2016 legislative session. Not one of them got a hearing.
It’s time to change the law and make the penalties for texting while driving as stiff as DUI penalties. It will save lives and keep us all safer.