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Florida Legislature is Considering Making Texting While Driving Illegal

Categories:Law in Florida

A study by the University of Florida shows that 95% of respondents favor some ban on texting while driving – the Tampa Bay Times reported on March 28, 2013.

Drivers who text are taking at least one hand off the wheel. They are also focusing on their texting which means they’re not focusing on the road. Both failures can result in severe accidents. More than 100,000 crashes a year involve drivers who are texting, according to the National Safety Council. In 2008, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration stated that 16% of all fatal crashes were caused by distracted driving.

According to the Governor’s Highway Safety Association, Washington was the first state to pass a texting ban in 2007. Currently, 39 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers.

  • All but 3 have primary enforcement.
  • An additional 6 states prohibit text messaging by novice drivers.
  • 3 states restrict school bus drivers from texting.

Florida does not, as of April 2013, have any laws prohibiting driving while texting – but there are bills in both the House and Senate that have momentum and have passed two subcommittees. Florida is one of only five states without any type of restriction on texting while driving.

If passed this session, House Bill 13, would make texting while driving a secondary offense.

  • A primary offense means the police can pull a driver over if they reasonably suspect that the driver is violating the law.
  • A secondary offense means police have to pull the driver over for another offense, like speeding. If, during the course of their investigation for the primary offense, the police discover that the driver was texting while driving then the driver would be cited for both offenses.

Pros and Cons of Banning Texting while Driving

Part of the reason for the delay in approving texting while driving laws is that some people think the laws are an invasion of freedom. They also argue that just because the law doesn’t prohibit it doesn’t mean plaintiffs can’t win – they argue plaintiffs can still show driving while texting is negligent. Proponents of the texting while driving laws want the laws enacted for several reasons.

  1. Proponents argue that someone’s freedom stops when you put someone else’s freedom at risk.
  2. There will be a penalty for violating the law which hopefully will be a deterrence.
  3. A ban empowers teachers to tell students (young drivers text and drive a lot) that texting while driving is wrong.
  4. It stigmatizes the practice for teens and adults.
  5. Our firm has argued in a prior blog that a ban would also make it easier to prove so-called “negligence per se,” aka statutory negligence:  violation of a statutory legal duty related to safe driving.  Negligence per se is the legal doctrine whereby an act is considered negligent because it violates a statute (or regulation). A typical example is one in which a contractor violates a building code when constructing a house.

In order to prove negligence per se, the plaintiff must show that:

  • The defendant violated the statute (they drove while texting)
  • The statute provides for a criminal penalty (i.e., fines or imprisonment) but not by civil penalties.
  • The act caused the kind of harm the statute was designed to prevent (the accident was caused by someone who lost focus because he was texting)
  • The plaintiff was a member of the statute’s protected class (the victim/plaintff was someone driving a car properly or a pedestrian who had a right to be located where he/she was hit).

Our firm believes the ban and the treatment of driving while texting as negligence per se  – would encourage settlement of many Tampa wrongful death claims –  easing court congestion and helping Tampa and other south Florida residents to collect the compensation they deserved for the loss of valued loved ones killed through no fault of their own

How our law firm can help?

If anyone you know is a victim of an accident involving someone who texting while driving please let our law firm help you get the recovery you deserve. During this difficult time we will help you receive the maximum compensation allowed by law and we will assist you through every step of the case.  Our team of lawyers works with medical professionals, valuation experts, technical experts and other lawyers. If you or a loved one suffered an injury or a death please call us at 1-888-WE-MEAN-IT (1-888-936-3264) or email us at: info@brookslawgroup.com.

 

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