Texting Ban in Florida Finally Considered

The push is on to ban texting while driving in Florida, one of 32 states where it is still legal to do so. AAA Auto Club is calling for a nationwide ban so that Florida can join 18 states where the practice is illegal.

Expect the 2010 legislative session to have at least two bills introduced by Florida lawmakers. Once again for the third year, Sen. Ted Deutch, D-Boca Raton plans to push for a prohibition on texting while driving when the legislature convenes in March. And Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota has filed HB 41 for the 2010 session to address the practice.

So far a ban has been unsuccessful and it’s beginning to be not only embarrassing for Florida, but more important, deadly. Five bills to ban the practice were filed in 2007 and in 2009, 11 bills were sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, but thanks to some pretty heavy lobbying, none passed. The Miami Herald calls the Florida Legislature the handmaiden to the telecommunications industry.

You would think after what happened to Heather Hurd, Florida would wake up. Heather’s Law, as it’s been proposed, is named after one of two Polk County women who was killed in an eight-car pileup caused by a tractor-trailer driver who was texting.

While the Florida Highway Patrol does not have a way to tally up those who die in the state from texting thought the state is beginning to reformat its crash reports to include that information. The best estimate was that in 2008, 15 people were killed in Florida and 1,400 were injured by distracted drivers.

If a bill finally passes, drivers would be fined if they read, text, or type while driving. An AAA spokeswoman says drivers sometimes lose control of their vehicle while texting.

“Anytime you don’t have total control of that vehicle you are 50 percent more apt to be involved in a traffic accident that can result in a fatality or major injuries. So AAA will support any legislation that Florida might put in to committee or even beginning next year, we will be behind that 100 percent of the way.”

AAA wants the 32 states without a ban to adopt one by 2013.

What may ultimately work is money. A group of Democrats in the U.S. Senate announced plans last August to deny hundreds of millions of dollars in federal highway money to states that don’t ban texting while driving. Ultimately that is what brought a mandatory seat belt law to the state. It makes personal safety sense and it makes fiscal sense too.

Source report: http://www.wjhg.com/home/headlines/66123982.html