Florida’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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