Texting while driving law in Florida questioned

Video sparks debate over texting, driving law

Author: Scott Johnson, General assignment reporter, sjohnson@wjxt.com
Elizabeth Berry, Evening assignment manager, beth@wjxt.com
Published On: Jan 14 2014 10:30:00 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 14 2014 11:30:49 PM EST
Texting while driving
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Video captured during a texting-and-driving accident in Fort Myers has a lot of people talking about how Florida's new ban on texting and driving is holding up.

The Florida Highway Patrol told Channel 4 on Tuesday that they've issued just shy of 400 tickets across the state of Florida for texting while driving, but many of those tickets were not issued in northeast Florida.

Still, drivers said they see people texting and driving all of the time, a practice that has been illegal in Florida for a little more than three months.

In the video out of Fort Myers, police said the driver is texting while driving and loses control of his car. The car slams into a tree and flips over. The driver was reportedly OK.

"My girlfriend and I are always out watching, counting how many people texting and driving, probably seven out of ten," said driver James Lenton.

Channel 4 reached out to numerous sheriff's offices in northeast Florida, and none could tell if they've written tickets for texting while driving. But the Florida Highway Patrol has.

The FHP has, so far, issued 14 tickets for texting and driving in Duval County, two in St. Johns County and one in Nassau.

"I think the law is good, but the fact that people are still texting and driving is very dangerous. I still see a lot of crashes out there," said Lenton.

Police agencies said the texting-and-driving ban is a difficult thing to enforce. This is because a texting-and-driving ticket is a secondary offense, meaning people can only be ticketed if they are pulled over for something else first.

There are also numerous exemptions. For example, the Clay County Sheriff's Office told Channel 4 that it's spoken to drivers about texting and driving, and many said they were dialing their phone and ended up not getting issued a ticket.