Texting while driving ban goes into effect Tuesday

By Ashley Mitchem - Reporter, anchor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - On Tuesday, Florida will become the 41st state to ban texting while driving.

To put the dangers of texting while driving into perspective, sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent of driving at 55 mph the length of an entire football field, blind.

The new ban also includes instant messaging and emailing while driving. It does not apply to phone calls.

Randy Wyse, president of the Jacksonville fire union, says a driver is 23 percent more likely to be involved in a crash while texting, and six times more likely to cause a crash while texting than driving while intoxicated.

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Wyse talked about one fatal crash where the driver was on his phone.

"While I'm sitting there assessing the scene, I can hear a phone down in the car somewhere, someone on the phone going, 'Hey, man, where you at? What are you doing?'" Wyse said.

Vicki Moulder, a mother of three, said she hopes to set a good example by never texting behind the wheel.

"I've seen too many accidents," she said. "My girlfriend was killed that way on the Buckman Bridge because she was texting and ran into a truck in front of her and died because of texting."

If consequences like injury or death don't scare some, maybe getting a fine will. It's a secondary offense, which means drivers can't get pulled over for doing texting. They will only get cited if pulled over for a primary offense, such as speeding.

Police now have the option to write on a crash report if the driver was distracted by a mobile device. If a crash is the result of texting while driving, paying a minimal fine is the least of drivers' worries.

"When texting and driving has resulted in a death, people have been charged with manslaughter, reckless vehicular homicide," said attorney Wayne Hogan.

So will this new law inspire drivers to stop texting while driving? Some think not.

"It doesn't matter if it's a phone or a passenger, you've got to make sure you're making attention to what you're doing driving," driver Jason Epperson said.

Drivers who get caught texting will face a $30 fine plus court fees. A second offense is $60 plus court costs.

Getting in a crash while texting will add points to a driver's license.

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