Legislators Aim to Intensify Penalties for Texting and Driving
Do you text (or e-mail or surf the web) while driving? If statistics on the topic are a good measure, you probably do, or have at one point. As our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers at Aronberg, Aronberg & Green know, and as at least one Florida legislator has argued, texting and driving has created an epidemic on our roads. We urge you to refrain from Texting and Driving!
Now, to combat this growing problem, a bipartisan team of Florida legislators led by State Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Boca Raton) and Sen. Rene Garcia (R-Miami) are introducing a bill which would make texting while drivers for young drivers (aged 15 to 17) a primary offense. Currently, under Florida law, texting while driving is a secondary offense, which means that the texting-while-driving cannot alone be the basis for a pullover and citation; the driver must have been committing a primary offense, too.
The bill is a suggested solution to a serious problem. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2015, roadway fatalities caused by distracted drivers across the country spiked 8.8% from the previous year’s number by increasing from 3,197 to 3,477. In Florida in particular, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles division reported that in 2015, distracted driving resulted in 16.22% of the injuries from crashes and 7.34% of all statewide fatal accidents. Percentages are informative, but real numbers really drive home the point: distracted driving led to 39,468 injuries and 216 deaths in Florida in 2015. As our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers recognize, the fact that 216 people died in 2015 because of distracted driving is particularly noteworthy and troubling given than just four years earlier, only 21 deaths (10% of the 2015 number) were attributed to distracted driving in the Sunshine State.
The issue clearly hits close to home for Floridians in general, but it especially does so with respect to one of the bill’s co-sponsors, Rep. Slosberg. Over 20 years ago, Rep. Emily Slosberg was involved in a horrific car crash caused by a distracted driver in Boca Raton. While Rep. Slosberg escaped the crash alive, her sister was killed in the accident.
True, 15 to 17 year olds (the only drivers addressed by the proposed legislation) are not the only ones who text and drive. Our Delray Beach personal injury lawyers believe that texting and driving restrictions—and penalties—should apply to those over 17, too. But as a practical matter, limiting the bill’s application to those aged 15 to 17 might make more sense: those affected by the increased penalty are not old enough to vote. Thus, lawmakers can vote to pass the bill without having to about facing blowback from affected citizens. In this sense, it’s better to have a bill with some coverage than no bill at all.