Stronger Penalties for Texting Aim at Decreasing Distracted Driving Accidents
Distracted driving continues to be one of the leading causes of car accidents and injuries, both in Florida and throughout the country. Texting is particularly dangerous as it requires drivers to take their eyes off the road and their hands off the wheel, while diverting their thoughts from the tasks of driving itself. While texting is currently against the law in Florida, it is a secondary infraction that carries only minor penalties. A new bill that was introduced in early December 2017 takes a tougher chance against texting, hoping that it will help to decrease the overall number of distracted driving accidents.
Florida Texting Bill
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), there were close to 50,000 reported car accidents involving distracted driving in our area during 2016, causing close to 4,000 serious injuries while killing more than 200 people. Distracted driving accidents in general have increased by 13 percent over the past 4 years, and often involve drivers engaged in texting behind the wheel.
Florida is one of only four states throughout the country in which texting and driving is not a primary offense, meaning that law enforcement officers must have another reason other than texting to pull a driver over. A December 2017 Palm Beach Post report states that a new bill has been introduced that hopes to change that. If passed, House Bill 33 would go into effect on July 1, 2018 and would result in the following changes:
- It would make texting, emailing, and instant messaging while driving a primary offense, rather than a secondary infraction;
- A first violation would carry fines and court costs of $108.00;
- A second violation would carry fines and court costs of $158.00, and add three points to a driver’s license record;
- Violations of the ban occurring in school zones would result in an additional two points on the driver’s record;
- Violations of the ban resulting in a car crash or collision would result in six points on the driver’s license, leading the driver closer to a license suspension.
While the sponsors of the bill, Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa and prime co-sponsor Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, claim the ban could help to save lives, it is not without controversy. To address privacy concerns, a warrant would be required by law enforcement to check a driver’s phone to see if a text was sent, and officers are required to notify drivers pulled over for texting that they have the right to decline a search.
Let Us Help You Today
Distracted driving accidents can cause serious, disabling, and potentially life threatening injuries. If you have been injured in this type of accident, reach out and contact the Law Firm of William E. Raikes III. We can arrange a free consultation with our Fort Pierce car accident attorney, who can who can assist you in getting the compensation you need to recover. Call or contact us online today.