Fla. needs laws to ban texting while driving
Published: Sunday, September 16, 2012
Updated: Sunday, September 16, 2012 15:09
We all know we have done it once or twice while driving; I find myself just as guilty. We are driving and feel our phones buzz in our lap, telling us our friends finally texted back. Most of us, without thinking of the consequences, will look to see who it is and reply. In those few seconds, it never really occurs to us how much could happen to us or, even worse, to someone else.
Every year since 2002, various county commissioners and Florida politicians have been fighting to have a ban placed on the use of handheld cellphones while driving. Rep. Irving Slosberg (D-Fla.), told the News-Press back in 2011, “Sooner or later we’ll get it out of the drawer.”
Florida trails behind the rest of the United States, being one of 11 states without a ban on text messaging for all drivers. Florida is also one of three states that has no distracted-driving laws.
There have been various studies done in recent years that have shown the dangers of texting while driving — Florida has more accidents, deaths and injuries due to crashes than the national average.
State numbers show that in Broward County, distracted driving is the No. 1 cause for fatal traffic accidents, yet Florida still drags its feet on even making attempts at a ban that, if anything, will aid in decreasing the number of crashes due to distracted drivers.
Many argue that the law will be almost as pointless as the Florida seat belt law that was signed in 2009 by then-Gov. Charlie Crist. Many believe you can only tell teens and young adults not to do it, yet it is a choice that has become so habitual many believe it cannot be broken — like most bad habits.
According to a survey of 800 people by the Miami Herald, 78 percent of Democrats showed support for the driving legislation along with 66 percent of Republicans. This shows that both sides see the issue as one of importance, with 70 percent of Florida voters in favor of a statewide ban on texting while driving.
Gov. Rick Scott doesn’t seem to see the bill as necessary, considering he shot down HB 689 with a veto. This bill would have required the Department of Motor Vehicles to provide education on the dangers of electronic distracted driving. Is that not what we would need to help start attacking the root of this problem? Should we not educate our teens about the dangers of driving while distracted?
Here at UCF, that way of thinking has been proven true. Back in 2010, UCF declared Oct. 25 Distracted Driving Awareness Day through the campaign Put Down Ur Cell Fone, started by then-Student Government Association Vice President Taylor Lochrane. It was included in the weeklong campus crusade for pledges from students to become more aware about their driving habits, especially texting. The campaign was so impactful on campus and in Central Florida that it received the United Safety Council’s prestigious Law Enforcement Traffic Safety Award — beating out top companies like Disney and Boeing Corporation.
Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles traffic crash statistics show that for 2010 alone “almost 1,500 people were injured due to distracted driving.” According to the statistics, “one in every six crashes is caused by distracted driving.”
The Orlando Sentinel recently cited how many local businesses are trying to help local residents make good choices while driving. Now, Disney and Orange County employees have to abide by a new policy that prevents workers with company cellphones from texting while driving. The local newspapers in Central Florida have been blasting this headline after legislators have neglected to use their powers to help aid in this fight.
Republican Sen. Nancy Detert has been pushing for Florida to impose a bill that bans texting while driving for a while now. It was finally approved this year by the Senate to be put on the budget on Feb. 21. It came to a dying shame on the calendar on March 9 not long after. Detert, seeing the importance of the matter, maintains that after elections in November there will still be hope.
“Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent, at 55 mph, of driving the length of an entire football field, blind,” Distraction.gov, the U.S. government website for distracted driving, reports.
With all the statistics behind it and most of the Florida community, why is it that Florida legislators want to continue to put the brakes on this bill as opposed to the vehicles of those that continue to endanger themselves and others while texting behind the wheel?