In the United States, over 285 million people are currently using a cell phone and the number of users continues to increase. Cell phone use has become part of our daily routines. This increased reliance on cell phones has also led to an increase in texting while driving, taking calls when driving, and subsequently, more accidents.
Although driving and talking on the phone is legal in Florida, there are several dangers associated with using a cell phone while driving. The first is that the driver must take his or her eyes off the road in order to make or receive a phone call which may severely impair the driver or disrupt the driver’s concentration. Second, in order to make a phone call or answer a call, the driver may have to take his or her hands off of the steering wheel in order to do so. Third, phone conversations and various topics may impair a driver’s cognitive skills, causing their focus to drift from driving to other topics.
In 2013, Florida legislatures enacted a limited ban on texting while driving by creating a law that states a person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually texting. This law is considered to be a “secondary law”, meaning that if you are pulled over for violating the law, you can only be issued a ticket or citation if an officer witnesses some other violation occurring contemporaneously. You cannot be pulled over just for texting while driving. There have been over 3,400 citations issued in Florida for texting and driving since the law was enacted. If a crash occurs because of a violation and texting, a driver may be penalized up to six points on his or her license.
Best practices for using a cell phone while driving
Hands-free options are a viable alternative; however, they can still impair or distract the driver. The best way to go about using a cell phone while driving is to allow the call to go to voicemail or wait until the car is stopped or pulled over to return the call and leave a brief voicemail. Place the phone in an easily accessible area so you do not become distracted by digging around your car for the phone. If you aware that you need to make a call while driving, prepare for the call by entering the number prior to beginning your drive. If you receive a text while driving, do not look at or respond to the text until the car is at a complete stop.
Current and Future Legislation
During the last Florida session, legislators attempted to expand on Florida’s texting and driving laws. Florida HB 25: Texting While Driving in a School Zone, provides enhanced penalties for violations of the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law when in a school zone or school crossing.
Although this bill died in subcommittee, this is a perfect example of new legislation that lawmakers are pushing for in order to increase the consequences for texting while driving. Other lawmakers are attempting to diminish or extinguish the current legislation. However, 46 states currently have similar laws regulating texting while driving. In any event, be careful while driving and if you are a victim of a motor vehicle accident involving a distracted driver, call Dennis Hernandez and Associates, P.A.