Could A Change Be Coming To The “Cell Phones While Driving” Law?
During the winter 2018 Florida legislative session, lawmakers took steps to ban cell phone use while driving. Lawmakers have previously tried to pass bills that made texting and driving illegal, but they have had no luck doing so to date. It will be interesting to track the bill, which could ban cell phones behind the wheel in 2019 and potentially save Floridian lives.
Tampa Representative Leads The Charge
Last year, State Representative Jackie Toledo of Tampa tried to make texting and driving behind the wheel a primary offense in Florida. Although that measure proved unsuccessful, she’s taking even stricter steps to combat distracted driving during this legislative session. When she initially introduced the bill, it forbid drivers from holding or touching a cellphone.
A day later, Toledo clarified that drivers are permitted “one tap” of the phone while behind the wheel. Regardless, her primary goal remains the same.
Toledo wants drivers to put the phone down and avoid distracting activities, such as:
• Browsing social media or the Internet
Toledo has said that her main intent is to make Florida roads safer while saving lives. Currently, Florida is one of three states in the nation in which law enforcement officials cannot pull a driver over for being on their phone. Police officers can only cite drivers on their phone as a secondary offense, meaning they must have first pulled them over for some other reason.
Will This Bill Prove Successful?
Although it may seem as though that this bill is stricter than a “texting and driving” ban, Toledo feels as though this bill is more likely to pass than the one she proposed last year. Part of the issue with the previous year’s bill was that officers might have had a difficult time proving that a defendant was texting, which would be the case when citing a driver for a primary offense. However, the language in this bill is much broader. It is much easy for police to see someone holding a phone.
It appears that the likelihood of a distracted driving bill passing the legislature is higher than ever. There is currently a sister bill in the Senate that has similar language to the law that Toledo proposed in the house. Additionally, many Florida lawmakers have indicated that distracted driving is a point of emphasis in this year’s legislative session. If the bill were to pass, it would go into effect on October 1, 2019.
Distracted Driving Statistics
It’s easy to make the case that distracted driving has become a nationwide epidemic. According to the National Safety Council, cell phone use behind the wheel is responsible for more than 1.6 million crashes annually. These accidents result in more than 390,000 injuries. Additionally, approximately 25 percent of crashes nationwide are due to cell phone use.
These statistics have also hit close to home. The Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles report that there is a crash roughly every 12 minutes that occurs thanks to distracted driving. In 2016, 233 automobile fatalities were attributed to distracted driving. It’s clear why lawmakers seek to eliminate distracted driving once and for all.