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After more than a decade of talk, a text ban appears certain

by John Kennedy | April 16th, 2013

Without much fanfare, the Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would make it illegal to text-while-driving – positioning Florida to pass its first measure cracking-down on smartphone use behind the wheel after more than a decade of failed proposals.

“This bill is long overdue,” said Senate Democratic Leader Chris Smith of Fort Lauderdale.

The legislation (CS/SB 52) cleared the Senate 36-0. Sponsor Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has been pushing the proposal for four years but had run into a wall in the House, where former Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, refused to allow the measure heard.

Detert on Tuesday praised new House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel,  for  letting House members this spring “to have a voice.”

The House is expected to approve the legislation this week, sending it to Gov. Rick Scott,  who has indicated he will allow it to become law.

The measure would make texting while driving a secondary offense. Motorists could be ticketed only if law enforcement officials stopped them for another reason.

A ticket could cost first-time offenders $30, plus court costs. But the bill includes exemptions allowing people to use phones to check maps, use voice-commands or listen to the radio through their phones.

Drivers also could text while stopped at a light, under the legislation. Talking on a cell phone would not be restricted.

But new research by economists at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee challenges whether a proposal like Florida’s will do much to discourage texting while driving.

Analyzing traffic fatality data from 2007-2010, Scott Adams and colleague Rahi Abouk found law enforcement officials have a difficult time distinguishing drivers who are texting illegally and those who are legally talking on a cell phone while driving.

When drivers are allowed to use their phones, attempting to make a specific kind of phone use illegal – like texting – makes enforcement virtually impossible, the economists concluded.

Even in the 10 states where the use of hand-helds is a primary traffic offense, including Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, heightened law enforcement is needed to maintain the prohibition’s potential to reduce accidents, the researchers found. Florida would become the 40th state to prohibit all drivers from texting.

“There has to be some fear to this, or it’s no deterrent,” Adams told The Palm Beach Post.



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5 Responses to “After more than a decade of talk, a text ban appears certain”

  1. nemo88 Says:

    $30? What kind of deterrent is that; and only when you get pulled over for another infraction? Another c.o.s.

  2. David 2 Says:

    Even many of our Florida lawmakers admit to texting while driving, which could explain why it took so long to do this. Now, while you’re at it, using a cell phone AT ALL while driving should be outlawed. I’m sick and tired of waiting for some mentally challenged person to look up from their phone after the light has turned green, and I’m REALLY tired of almost being killed by some mental giant too distracted by his/her phone to pay attention to the road.

  3. dmc Says:

    NOT tough enough! What is wrong with our lawmakers? Talking on the phone and all texting needs to be banned while driving. Just leaving folks an out, “oh, I was looking at a map”! It sh/be NO, period! If there is no real penalty this bill will not be taken seriously and hard to enforce. Why waste everyone’s time. JUST DO IT!

  4. mk78x Says:

    Laws against reckless driving already exist. Why is this necessary? How will it possibly be enforced? What if someone uses the GPS feature of their smartphone? How will the officer and courts decide someone was texting rather than looking at the map? How won’t this new law be abused by power hungry authoritarians?

  5. mk78x Says:

    Laws shouldn’t be judged by their intent, but rather their effectiveness. It seems that something like this will be used more for revenue generation, than making people safer.

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