Florida Gov. Charlie Crist has come out with a Legislative wish list for 2010. He clearly stated he is in favor of a ban on texting while driving this upcoming year, adding new momentum for the state Legislature to finally adopt some bill in 2010 after repeated tries in recent years.
At a Cabinet meeting the governor even prodded the head of the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles to also support a ban.
“We support limiting texting and driving,” Julie Jones said.
The Department of Transportation estimates 6,000 died on the roads last year in part because of distraction from cell phones. It may be a generational issue.
A study by Vingo Corp. of Massachusetts finds that 60 percent of teens admit to at least reading an incoming message while driving. It’s now the primary way teens send messages. An unbelievable 54 percent say they send more than 500 text messages every month, much more use than making a phone call.
In a recent AAA survey, over two-thirds of respondents admitted they had talked on a cell phone and 21 percent admitted to reading or sending a text while driving.Two editors of Car and Driver tried driving distracted.
On a closed airport runway, the editors texted while driving 35 mph and 70 mph. Then they drank until they reached the legal limit of .08 and drove again without texting. The texting results were worse than when they were drunk.
For too long the cell phone industry has had its way with Floridians, but that is beginning to change. Jones told reporters that she senses there is a shift in tolerance by the public to texting while driving, largely because of the number of fatal auto accidents in Florida.
While Florida has no official tally on those who have died from texting while driving, the best estimate is that 15 were killed and 1,400 injured by distracted drivers in 2008. Those estimates are probably low since the Florida Highway Patrol is just beginning to add information on accident reports to indicate the crash was caused by texting and distracted driving.
More than a dozen bills have been filed for consideration this March. Sen. Carey Baker, R-Eustis has filed two of them. “I think this year, something’s going to pass,” he said.
Early next year, Florida has a chance to join 14 states and the District of Columbia that already ban texting while driving. It’s about time.