Do you know someone that has been injured because of a distracted driver? Odds are the answer is yes and the problem is not going away. In the State of Florida, texting and driving is a secondary offense. This means a Tampa police officer can witness you texting and driving and do nothing about it unless you first commit a primary offense such as running a stop sign. On its face, this law appears to miss the mark by not empowering law enforcement with the ability to keep innocent drivers safe.
Stronger Texting and Driving Law being considered
The Florida legislature is considering an enactment that would elevate “texting and driving” to a primary offense. Under this proposed law, a police officer witnessing you texting while driving could immediately stop and cite you. According to the Tampa Bay Times, this bill is gaining momentum and has bi-partisan support with support from police agencies, the business community, numerous municipalities and other groups. This is a step in the right direction. But, does it go far enough?
Distracted Driving is much more than just texting
Some would argue that “texting and driving” is just a small part of the bigger picture of “distracted driving”. Texting and driving is a small part of the bigger umbrella of distracted driving. Distracted driving can include anything from eating, putting on make-up, reading email and even watching a streaming video. Imagine driving an 8000-pound car at 60 mph glancing at your text message for 3 seconds. (A car traveling at 60 mph travels 88 feet per second) So, in three seconds you would have traveled almost the length of a football field without eyes on the road.
Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Statistics
According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, distracted driving resulted in 49,000 car crashes in 2016. County by County statistics for the Tampa Bay area reveal a disturbing upward trend of Distracted Driving Crashes:
Hillsborough County: 4861 crashes with 26 fatalities
PinellasCounty: 2058 crashes with 6 fatalities
Polk County: 1259 crashes with 5 fatalities
Sarasota County: 696 crashes with 2 fatalities
Orange County: 6094 crashes with 25 fatalities
Osceola County: 1524 crashes with 6 fatalities
Pasco County: 887 crashes with 5 fatalities
By any standard of measurement this level of injury and death is abhorrent.
What should we do?
Texting and driving is becoming an increasingly dangerous problem. This is the new DUI. This is a problem that can and should be combatted with strong legislation. The bill being considered is a move in the right direction. Going a step further, legislators must look at the bigger picture of distracted driving. Call your local state representative or senator and voice your concern on this issue.