Will texting, driving ban finally come in Florida?

Under proposed bill, talking on phone while driving would also be prohibited

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Do you ever look over at the car next to you and see someone talking on their cellphone or looking down on their phone and texting?

That could soon change if one Florida lawmaker gets her way.

Sen. Maria Sachs, of Delray Beach, has filed a far-ranging bill to bar Floridians from using handheld cellphones while driving. Senate Bill 74 would ban texting while driving, already the focus of another bill, but would add talking while driving to the list of prohibited activities.

Florida is one of six states left without any type of ban against texting and driving, and this year is the sixth year in a row Florida lawmakers will take up a proposed ban on the issue.

This time, the ban could pass. AAA backs the potential ban, saying it would especially help lower teen accident rates.

"Fill up the car with teenagers and then give them a phone to talk on or text on, it's going to happen," said Bill Bishop, of AAA.

"I think it is needed to try to regulate the distraction of drivers, particularly your younger drivers who feel that they can multitask while they are driving when they only need to be doing a single task," Channel 4 safety expert Ken Jefferson said.

The single task? Watching the road.

"As a parent of a teen driver, I think that texting and driving might be a little bit dangerous," said Sean Conover.

Dangerous is right. Here's some facts about texting and driving:

  • About 25 percent of drivers say they do it.
  • A texting driver is 23 times more likely to get into a crash than a non-texting driver.
  • Of those killed in distracted driving-related crashes, 995 involved reports of a cellphone as a distraction (18% of fatalities in distraction-related crashes).
  • Using a cellphone while driving, whether it's handheld or hands-free, delays a driver's reactions as much as having a blood alcohol concentration at the legal limit of .08.
  • Five seconds is the average time someone's eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55 mph, that's enough time to cover the length of a football field.

"They definitely swerve, they are all over the road," driver Jason Judy said of texting drivers. "People say they are good at it, but they're not. I don't think any of us are."

Under the bill, texting while driving would be a non-moving violation, punishable by a $30 fine. Drivers could only be ticketed if they are pulled over for something else.

Also, checking a GPS or the weather would be OK. And cellphones could be used with hands-free technology.

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