Florida legislators revive bills that would ban texting behind the wheel

Now that the 2013 legislative session is about to go into full swing, Florida lawmakers have revived several proposals that have failed in years past, namely those that would ban the sending or reading of text messages while driving.

Florida is now one of only a handful of states that have no widespread prohibition against texting behind the wheel in spite of years of evidence to prove that: distracted driving + high speeds + thousands of motorists on the road at any given time (particularly in Florida's tourist-heavy metropolitan areas) = accidents, injuries and deaths.

Getting the word out: distracted driving is deadly driving

An estimated 500,000 motor vehicle accidents are caused each year by drivers dividing their attention between the road - where it belongs - and distractions in the car. Distractions can be high-tech like cell phones, texting, PDAs, laptops, tablets and GPS navigation systems, or they can be low-tech like putting on makeup, reading maps, eating or finding new music on an mp3 or CD player.

In spite of public support from the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration, the U.S. Department of Transportation and law enforcement agencies (like the Florida Highway Patrol, Florida Sheriffs' Association and Florida Police Chiefs' Association) alike, Florida still hasn't passed the type of ban that could prevent some of the estimated 3,000 distracted driving-related fatalities annually.

Like driving blindfolded?

The USDOT gives a real-world example of the effects of texting behind the wheel that hammers the point home: sending or reading a text message takes the driver's eyes off the road for approximately 4.6 seconds. That, in a vacuum, sounds like a very short period of time. However, when considered in the totality of the circumstances, with that time elapsing while a car is barreling down the highway at 55 mph, 4.6 seconds translates into the length of an entire football field. All that time, since the driver was paying little or no attention to the road ahead, traffic conditions or weather conditions that should be taken into account while operating a vehicle and he or she essentially could have been driving blindfolded.

Will this be the year?

Many law enforcement and public safety advocacy groups across the state are hoping that 2013 will finally be the year that Florida brings its antiquated motor vehicle laws into the 21st century and puts a ban on the sending or reading of text messages or emails while driving, but only time will tell. Even though there isn't an explicit ban on texting, there are ways in which people injured by the careless acts of distracted drivers can be compensated for their injuries.

If you or a loved one has been injured - or you have tragically lost a family member - due to the actions of a distracted driver, speak with an experienced Florida personal injury attorney in your area today.