Florida Focus on Dangers of Texting While Driving

St Johns County Sheriff’s Officer, Col. Art May of the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Department says he is seeing it more and more. Often it presents as a swerving car. In the past, he would have pulled the driver over assuming they were drunk.

These days he quickly ascertains more often than not that the driver is texting.

Now the St Johns County Chamber of Commerce is joining forces with the AAA Auto Club South. It developed the idea of getting businesses involved to sign a safe-driving pledge to guarantee their employees will not text and drive.

Chamber President Robin Burchfield feels it is a natural to represent businesses in the community in a positive way.

The movement is not limited to Jacksonville. All of the chambers in Florida will be invited to join in the effort to get businesses to sign the no-texting-while-driving pledge.

Ultimately AAA hopes to put pressure on the Florida Legislature to finally pass a law that bans texting while behind the wheel. At the present time it is legal for drivers to text and drive, but an officer like May can cite you for careless driving.

So far no bills have passed in the Legislature and though one was introduced this year, lawmakers adjourned without voting. Expect it to come back again in 2010 when the session convenes on March 2, including Heather’s Law which would prohibit the use of handheld cell phone while driving.

Nine cell phone/ texting bills were proposed in Florida’s 2008 legislative session, though none passed.

Even the Miami Herald in an editorial said what everyone is thinking – that the Legislature is the hand-maiden to the telecommunications industry on this issue. It’s gotten so ridiculous that when local government banned cell phone use in cars a few years ago, the Legislature decided to approve a law that forbids local government from regulating cell phone use.

Federally, President Obama has just signed an executive order preventing federal employees and military personnel, three million in all, from texting while driving federal vehicles.

Imagine if Florida took distracted driving seriously? The government estimates that there are 5,800 deaths caused by distracted motorists- that’s one in every six crashes.

While the chamber and AAA gear up for the next legislative session, it’s time to call your state lawmaker and make 2010 the year of the cell phone/ texting ban.

Source article: http://jacksonville.com/news/metro/2009-10-12/story/florida_

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