Florida Congressman Ted Deutch of Boca Raton is pushing for stricter texting while driving laws. He introduced a bill in the United States House of Representatives on Wednesday, which would empower Florida and other states to enforce stricter laws banning distracted driving. Police would have more power to pull over motorists and give them tickets if they are seen texting while driving.
Cell Phone Car Accidents
Florida legislators recently proposed a new law that would ban all drivers aged 18 and younger from using cell phones while behind the wheel. Regular readers of this blog know that Florida lawmakers finally passed a law last spring that bans drivers from sending manual texts while driving, but allows them to read and respond to texts while stopped in traffic. If passed into law, the new bill sponsored by State Rep. Irv Slosberg, D- Boca Raton, would ban cell phone use entirely by drivers 18 and younger.
Will Florida finally pass a substantive ban on texting while driving? James O. Cunningham and other Orlando personal injury lawyers certainly hope so. The most recent attempt to enact a texting ban in Florida was filed in the Senate on Nov. 21. If passed, the bill (SB 52) would ban drivers from sending or reading texts, emails and other electronic messages while driving but would not prevent them from reading weather alerts, maps and other navigational tools and safety information.
Elissa Schee is motivated to convince Florida legislators to finally pass a ban on cell phone use while driving. Her daughter Margay was killed four years ago when a tractor-trailer collided with the rear of a school bus, killing her and injuring 15 other students. According the Florida Highway Patrol accident investigation, the bus had stopped on U.S. 301 near Citra on Sept. 23, 2008, to drop off students when the truck plowed into the rear. Troopers say the truck did not brake before the collision, and their investigation confirmed that the truck driver had been using his cell phone immediately before the accident.
This past spring, the Kissimmee Police Department organized and staged an auto accident with the help of four Osceola High School drama students. Like similar staged accidents to warn teens of the dangers of drinking and driving, this accident scene was constructed to discourage teen drivers from texting while behind the wheel. Teens and police officers report that the staged accident was a huge success and that they may stage similar events in other Florida high schools.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FDHSMV) has issued a distracted driving report from data they collected in 2008, and the statistics are equal parts surprising and disturbing. Despite public awareness campaigns and numerous studies linking distracted driving and sharply elevated accident rates, many drivers continue to engage in a variety of risky distracted driving behaviors while behind the wheel.
Police say that a recent four-vehicle accident in New Port Richey was caused by a "perfect storm" of negligence on the part of a 33-year-old driver. They found that the man had consumed three beers in less than 90 minutes that evening and was texting while driving before his Dodge Ram pickup truck struck a car that had stopped at a red light at the intersection of U.S. Route 19 and Main Street. This collision triggered an accident that involved two other vehicles but, fortunately, resulted in no serious injuries. Orlando auto accident lawyer James O. Cunningham has been a strong advocate for substantive legislation against texting while driving in Florida. He believes that the number of cell phone car accidents in our state could be reduced if lawmakers finally join nearly all other states in banning the use of cell phones while behind the wheel.
Florida legislators are scheduled to review at least six bills in the coming year that target distracted driving in general and texting while driving in particular. James O. Cunningham and other Orlando personal injury lawyers are hopeful that Florida will finally pass substantive distracted driving laws, but their optimism is tempered by lawmakers’ repeated failures in recent years to adopt such laws protecting Floridians. Currently, Florida is one of only 15 states that do not have laws that ban drivers from using their cell phones to talk, text and send and receive messages while driving, despite irrefutable evidence that using these devices sharply increases the likelihood of accidents.
Regular readers of this blog are very familiar with our state’s lack of cell phone legislation for drivers. They are also very familiar with Orlando personal injury attorney James O. Cunningham’s stance on this issue. He prefers a zero tolerance policy on cell phone use of any kind while driving and encourages state lawmakers to take decisive action on this issue to save lives. Currently, there are no state laws against texting, surfing the internet or making calls on cell phones while driving. Further, Florida does not allow communities to enact legislation against distracted cell phone driving.
Regular readers of this blog are very familiar with the sad story of Heather Hurd. Heather was an Orlando resident who was killed when the driver of a tractor-trailer who was texting on his cell phone while driving slammed into her car and eight others on a Florida highway four years ago. Since then, her parents, Orlando personal injury lawyers and many thousands of concerned Floridians have asked lawmakers to pass tough laws against cell phone use while driving with little success. Heather’s parents, Kim and Russell Hurd, who live in Maryland, have taken a proactive stance against drivers who talk and text while driving.