The Florida Legislature is once again considering a bill to restrict cell phone usage behind the wheel, but the bill does not go far enough. Time has long passed for Florida to follow the example of other states and ban texting and driving, and it’s important that our state law enforcement has a law with some teeth behind it. The behavior is dangerous and needs to be stopped.
This week, the Florida House was expected to begin discussion on House Bill 13, while the Florida Senate discusses Senate Bill 52, both of which would make texting and driving a secondary offense. We believe this loophole is a mistake.
Texting and driving should be a primary offense, as it risks the lives of those around you. As a secondary offense, drivers could only be cited for texting if they are first pulled over for another offense, such as a moving violation. This provision does not give law enforcement officers the ability to stop this reckless habit when they see it, only when the driver is making another mistake. What’s worse, the fine will only cost you $30. The punishment hardly fits the crime.
Talking and texting are dangerous habits that tie up your hands while they should be on the wheel. It’s unfortunate that this legislation needs to be made at all. Everyone should know distracted driving is dangerous driving.
Unfortunately, that is not the case. Though the legislation is believed to be aimed at teenagers, who have been singled out for texting and driving the most, they are not the only ones to blame.
A survey by AT&T released last month showed that almost half of the adult respondents (49 percent) admitted to texting and driving behind the wheel, while slightly fewer teens (43 percent) admitted to it. But 98 percent of respondents knew what they were doing was unsafe.
So while this bill is a step in the right direction, it doesn’t go far enough. People willing to engage in unsafe behavior, knowing the deadly risks, aren’t going to be swayed unless it hits them where it hurts — their wallets.
We hope the legislature takes a careful look at the issue and gives law enforcement the strength it needs to curb texting and driving.
However, all Floridians should also take personal responsibility for our safety and the safety of others. Don’t text and drive, and teach your children about the dangers. Remember, if they see you doing it, your warnings won’t have much weight.
For more information on texting and driving, and how to talk to your teens, visit www.distraction.gov.