Florida Lawmakers Consider Statewide Driver Texting Ban

1307593_mobile_phone_in_hand%20sxchu%20website.jpgFlorida’s Budget Committee is considering a bill which would ban texting while driving throughout the state. Senate Bill 416 would prohibit drivers in Florida from sending or reading non-voice communications using a wireless device. If approved, the ban would go into effect on October 1st of this year.

Senate Bill 416 was introduced by Senators Margolis, Sachs, Sobel, Lynn, and Altman. If the law is passed, a driver caught texting while driving would be subject to a $30 fine and gain 6 points on their driver’s license. A driver cited twice within 5 years would be subject to a $60 fine and receive an additional 6 points. In Florida, once a driver has received 12 or more points the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles may suspend their operator’s license for 30 days.

If passed, the law would not apply to police or emergency personnel engaged in their official duties. It would also provide an exception for those reporting an emergency or crime. Emergency alerts, messages concerning weather or traffic, and navigation systems would also be exempted under the proposed law. As written, the bill would make texting behind the wheel violations a secondary enforcement offense. This means a driver could only be cited for violating the law if initially pulled over for another violation.

According to Captain Mark Brown, Chief of Public Affairs for the Florida Highway Patrol, nearly 2,600 motor vehicle collisions in Florida in 2011 involved an “electronic distraction.” He also stated all use of cellular telephones in Florida Highway Patrol cars is banned unless a hands free device is being used. The Highway Patrol instituted this policy in an effort to set a good example for Florida residents.

Senate Bill 416 is modeled after a 2009 Executive Order which prohibits federal employees driving a government vehicle from texting behind the wheel. At present, 35 states and the District of Columbia have banned texting while driving. Previous attempts to prohibit texting while driving never made it out of the Florida Legislature. The current Senate bill has seen support as it traveled through several committees, but it has not been scheduled for a full chamber vote. House Bill 299, the House counterpart to Senate Bill 416, has not moved forward.

Florida citizens spend countless hours in their automobiles every year. Drivers distracted by cellular telephones, text messages, and email can be a hazard to everyone on the road. Serious injuries and even death may result from their inattention. If you were injured in a car accident due to another person’s negligence, you may be eligible to receive monetary damages for lost wages, lost earning capacity, medical bills, suffering, pain, disability, and loss of enjoyment of life. Since no two injuries are alike, it is a good idea to contact an experienced automobile accident lawyer to help you assess your damages.
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Florida Legislature Rejects Efforts to End Texting while Driving

This spring, our blog has focused on several issues, from medical malpractice to car accidents, that were addressed by our legislature in its 2011 session. However, the results of the session have shown that no changes are being made when it comes to texting while driving. A recent entry by the website Hands Free Info noted that several bills aimed at limiting or prohibiting the use of cell phones or text messaging devices while driving died in session before becoming law. Among the bills include the following programs: a bill prohibiting minors and school bus drivers from using cell phones and a bill that would ban texting while driving.

This comes as a shock to us and to many Floridians, considering the controversy that the issue has caused in recent years. These days, drivers of all ages have cell phones that have texting plans. As an article from Ocala.com notes, Florida is one of 17 states that have no specific ban on texting while driving. Only eight states, along with the Virgin Islands and the District of Columbia, ban cell phone use while driving. Yet, according to a 2008 report from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, 46% of drivers 16-17 years old and 48% of drivers 18-24 years old text while driving. In fact, the report noted that 1 in 7 U.S. drivers admitted to texting while driving.

In spite of this, others have responded with efforts to educate the public on the dangers of texting while driving. Teen sensation Justin Bieber recently supported a campaign by a South Florida company to develop a phone app that will disable texting, emailing and the keyboard while the phone is in motion. The Disney Corporation and the U.S. Department of Transportation have teamed up to release a public service announcement using the characters from the Disney movie “Cars”:



Whether or not laws exist in our state, we urge all drivers to be alert and focused while behind the wheel and we ask they they refrain from texting while driving. In the past, I have been firm in my opinions on this issue. My hope is that one day Florida will pass and enforce laws that prohibit this dangerous activity.

School Bus Drivers in Miami-Dade: No Texting While Driving

The Sun Sentinel reported that the Miami-Dade school board passed a ban on Tuesday which disallows bus drivers from using their cell phones. The ban also includes other district employees who use district-owned vehicles. However, the ban does not include school police officers.

This is just another case of a South Florida city cracking down cell phone usage while driving, as we have already seen a similar ban on texting in Parkland, Florida. The report noted that 19 states have banned texting while driving and six states require every driver to use hand-held devices if they are making a phone call. According to the Sentinel, there are some experts who think distracted driving is more dangerous than driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While Florida does not have any official laws on the books yet, Rep. Doug Holder of Sarasota has been very active in pushing for legislation on this issue.


School buses safety is a major concern for parents. According to the National Coalition for School Bus Safety, over 22 million kids around the country ride the bus. A 2002 National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study showed that school buses were involved in over 26,000 crashes, which resulted in almost 1,000 incapacitating injuries. Earlier in October school buses caught everyone’s attention in South Florida when a man in Tequesta, Florida was struck and killed by a school bus.

In our practice we encounter the issue of cell phone use while driving on a daily basis. It is a fact that distracted driving causes accidents and accidents can cause serious personal injuries to those who are unfortunately involved in these accidents. Please contact our offices if you or someone you know has been injured in an automobile accident so we can protect your rights.

Obama Administration Focusing on Distracted Driving, Flying Laws

By now, all of us have heard of and are following the story of the Northwest Airline pilots who earlier this month overshot their arrival to Minneapolis by 150 miles. The pilots notified investigators that they were distracted because they were using their laptops to organize crew schedules.

In a recent Sun Sentinel article, it reported that in light of the Northwest fiasco, Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood stated that the Obama administration will now expand its efforts in distracted driving to flying. According to LaHood, FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt is considering whether a uniform ban on use of electronic devices such as laptops during flight is in order.


As the article noted, lawmakers have expressed interest in tackling the issue of distracted driving. In September, LaHood held a summit on distracted driving, inviting researchers, regulators and other experts.

So what does this mean for South Florida drivers? We have already felt the effects of the push for banning electronic devices, as we noted in “South Florida City Bans Texting while Driving” and the Cell Phone Use section of our blog. With the White House concerned about the issue, we will likely see many changes which may have a dramatic effect on the litigation of auto accidents and aviation accidents in South Florida.

At the other side of the issue, however, is the concern for a driver’s autonomy and personal freedom while on the road. Our post entitled “Does Cell Phone Use Cause Florida Accidents?” recognized that this is a position which many people take on the electronic device issue.

Ultimately, we hope that as more developments in cell phone usage unfold, the determining factor in future legislation will be to maintain the safety of both drivers and pedestrians.

South Florida City Bans Texting While Driving

It’s official: the city of Parkland in Broward County, Florida, has made it illegal to text while driving within city limits. According to the Sun Sentinel, on Wednesday, the City Commission voted unanimously to ban texting, citing a Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study.


The study showed that drivers who text are 23 times likely to be involved in an auto accident. The study also showed that drivers who dial their cell phone are 2.8 times as likely to have an accident or near crash event as a non-distracted driver.

This is a landmark decision, as Parkland is now the first city in Broward County to ban text messaging. The penalty for violating the ban? A $100 fine. Of course, on-duty police and fire rescue officials will be exempt from the ban.

In our previous blog “Does Cell Phone Use Cause Florida Car Accidents,” we discussed cell phone use in Florida and the different opinions which South Florida drivers may have on the issue. Some are very apt to the idea of laws which ban usage, while others disagree with laws which dictate how citizens should drive. However, as we noted in our blog, the availability of more studies and research conducted every year is pushing Florida legislators and individual municipalities to enact bans on cell phone use as in Parkland.

Currently, the city of Parkland is still awaiting word from the Attorney General’s office on the legality of this ban. However, police will be issuing warnings.

In any case, the fact remains that despite our dependence and overall acceptance on cell phone usage while driving, the numbers don’t lie. The use of cell phones while driving is a major concern for driver safety, and we suspect that the passage of no-texting laws in Parkland may only be the first of many attempts in the future in cities throughout South Florida.

Broward County Auto Accident Puts Eight in Hospital

On Wednesday, August 20, the Sun Sentinel reported an auto accident that occurred in Hallandale Beach, where eight people, including two children ages 3 and 7, were sent to the hospital after a three –car collision on Pembroke Road, about 1 block east of I-95. The accident occurred at about 3:30 in the afternoon.

The driver, a man in his 70s, was taken to Memorial Regional Hospital in Hollywood in serious condition. The accident occurred when the driver, heading west on Pembroke Road, crossed into the eastbound lane, crashed into a Lexus, then crashed head-on into a pick-up truck. The cause of the accident is still unknown.

According to the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Traffic Crash Statistics Report 2008, the state of Florida had 243,342 traffic crashes last year, down about 5% from 2007. The report shows that Broward County had a total of 26,417 traffic accidents in 2008, with the greatest concentration of accidents on a weekday occurring after noon, between the hours of 3 p.m. and 5 p.m.

Broward County was second only to Miami-Dade in total crashes last year. The risks associated with driving increase in larger metropolitan cities, such as Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Modern-day distractions (cell phones, mp3 players, etc.) and other factors, such as alcohol/drug abuse, poor vision, and aggressive driving all add to the danger. We have recently written about the issue of cell phone use and driving in a previous article “Does Cell Phone Use cause Florida Car Accidents?” It is clear that cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle can cause drivers to be distracted and distracted drivers can cause accidents.

We all need to make a conscious effort to be safer drivers. Our lives and the lives of our friends and families depend upon it. The Florida Safety Council is one of many great sources of information for tips on driver safety. By knowing the facts and being informed, drivers of all ages can get a better understanding and take more preventative measures to ensure the safety of themselves and others.

Does Cell Phone Use Cause Florida Car Accidents?

Where do you stand on this issue? It seems wherever you go, people are on their cell phone even while driving their cars. This has caused many to wonder whether cell phone use should be permitted while operating a motor vehicle. There are three sides to this issue:
1. A ban on cell phone use by drivers due to the fact that many Florida car accidents happen when a driver is distracted while talking on the phone.
2. No ban on cell phone use due to the opinion that it is possible to drive safely while speaking on a phone and no one should dictate that drivers should not be able to talk and drive.
3. A compromise – allow cell phone use only with a hands-free headset or ear piece.

Earlier this year bills were introduced by Florida Legislators which were aimed at reducing cell phone calls in moving cars, none were passed. One bill was aimed at banning all Florida drivers from sending a call, texting, dialing, listening or speaking on a wireless device without a hands-free device. Another would have banned teen drivers from driving and talking on hand-held devices.

We have found in our practice that there are more and more accidents that are caused by drivers who are on there cell phones and there are statistics that do seem to suggest that legislation is needed. The leading cause of fatalities for teenagers and drivers in their 20’s and 30’s reported by the CDC are car accidents. In addition, it is well known that car accidents also cause many serious injuries to drivers and passengers. The following studies have found a link between fatalities and injuries in vehicular accidents and cell phone use by the drivers:
1. In 2002, the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis study, found that about 2,600 fatalities each year are caused by drivers who are distracted by cell phones at the time of an accident.
2. The California Highway Patrol also conducted their own research in 2001 and found that during a nine month period 4,699 car crashes were linked to drivers distracted by their cell phones.
3. Another study conducted by the University of Utah found that drivers using cell phones had the same response times as drunk drivers. The drivers using cell phones, the research revealed, were 9% slower to brake and 19% slower to return to normal driving speeds.

It’s almost impossible to believe that our Florida legislature decided five years ago to make it illegal for local jurisdictions to ban cell phones. The studies listed and data from our own Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reveal that in 2006, 26 car accident fatalities and 1,364 car accident injuries in Florida involved driver distractions. We all need to let our legislature know that the citizens of Florida want their streets and highways to be safer and legislation that limits the use of cell phones while operating a motor vehicle will help to accomplish that goal. This is not about convenience or taking away our rights, it is about saving lives that are needlessly cut short as a result of drivers who are unnecessarily distracted while operating a vehicle.

Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?

On July 23, 2008, the head of a prominent cancer research institute issued a stunning warning to his faculty and staff:

Limit Cell Phone Use because of the possible risk of cancer.

The director of the University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute, Dr. Ronald B. Herberman, is convinced that while the date is still equivocal and incomplete, there is enough evidence of a possible link between cell phone use and cancer.

Dr. Herberman has concluded that it often takes too long to get answers from science and rather than wait for a definitive study to come out, it is better to err on the side of caution, especially when it comes to children. Studies have proven that children’s developing brains are more susceptible to electromagnetic waves, which penetrate deeper into a child’s brain. Because of this, Dr. Herberman has recommended to parents that children should use cell phones only for emergencies.

He also recommends that adults should keep the phone away from their head and use the speakerphone or a wireless headset. We have been recommending to our clients that they purchase devices that limit the radiation emitted trough cell phones. These devices are often the size of a penny, fit over the cell phone ear piece and reduce radiation by as much as 97 percent. There are several companies that sell these devices and one that we recommend that you go to is www.waveshield.com. (No one associated with our law firm has any relationship, financial or otherwise with anyone associated with these companies that sell these devices.)

This article will not discuss the number of studies that have found no link between cell phone use and cancer. While we acknowledge that these studies exist, some of them are not recent and they appear to run contrary to an international trend over the last several years where cancer researchers in several foreign nations have also found a link between cell phone use and cancer. In fact, many of these countries have already issued warnings similar to Dr. Herberman.

The point of this latest warning and this article is it is the first credible finding by a renowned American Cancer Institute and it merely concludes that while the data is inconclusive, it is better to err on the side of caution and use all safety remedies at your disposal. No one, in their right mind, who does not have an agenda, can argue with the logic in this warning. We are not, and I repeat, NOT attempting to procure litigation cases against the Cell Phone Industry and their various companies. We are merely using this opportunity to educate our friends and neighbors and advise them to exercise caution, especially when it comes to their beautiful children.