It’s official. The State of Florida has banned texting-while-driving. On May 28, 2013, Governor Rick Scott signed a new law aimed at preventing distracted driving. The new law which takes effect immediately, allows a law enforcement officer to pull over a driver and issue a citation for texting-while-driving only if the driver has committed another infraction, like speeding, running a red light, a broken taillight, or expired tag. This is the same way the seat-belt law was introduced. It started out as a non-stoppable offense and had to be combined with a moving violation. Over time, the seat-belt law was changed and is now treated as a stand-alone moving violation.
Texting-while-driving has become a serious problem adding to distracted driving-related accidents. A study by The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,060 people are injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. A CDC study analyzed 2011 data on distracted driving, including talking, texting, and reading email behind the wheel and one of the study’s findings showed that 31% of U.S. drivers ages 18-64 reported that they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
In the last several years, many states have passed laws prohibiting texting-while-driving. The federal government is also involved: Beginning in 2010, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration enacted a ban that prohibits commercial vehicle drivers from texting while driving.
Laws banning texting-while-driving are controversial. Some studies show that these types of laws do not reduce the number of crashes when compared with states where texting-while-driving is still allowed. One explanation is that cell phone use is still permitted by a driver, just not texting. This has led many safety experts to argue in favor of a total ban on cell phone use by a driver. The National Safety Council supports a total ban.
For now, you can still talk on your cell phone while driving in Florida. Just no texting.