Most Florida residents understand that texting on a cell phone while driving is dangerous and prohibited by state law. However, distracted driving bans are not always effective in preventing individuals from using an electronic device while behind the wheel. Many drivers feel confident in their ability to multitask or think that sending a text will only take a few moments. Unfortunately, statistics show that distracted driving often leads to car accidents, serious injuries and even fatalities.
“Distracted driving” may refer to a variety of behaviors, such as eating, grooming and talking on the phone, but the most frequent distraction is texting. Writing texts, reading email and even watching videos are common distracted driving practices that often lead to accidents. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, motor vehicle accidents involving a distracted driver caused 20,000 deaths between 2012 and 2017. NHTSA statistics also show that young people between 16 and 24 years old are more likely than older individuals to use handheld devices while driving. In 2017 alone, car accidents where teen drivers were distracted at the time of the crash accounted for 8% of the total number of teen-driver-related fatalities.
Florida legislators have made recent changes to state traffic laws in an attempt to reduce the number of distracted driving crashes. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles provides details on the Wireless Communications While Driving Law, a statute that went into effect in July of 2019. The statute gives law enforcement officers the ability to issue citations to drivers who are manually writing text messages, emails or instant messages on their phones while behind the wheel. Penalties for distracted driving may include fines and accrual of points against an individual’s driver’s license. In essence, the law requires individuals to focus solely on driving and to avoid using their devices while operating their vehicles.