Jamaica Gleaner / FORT LAUDERDALE (AP):
Florida Highway Patrol Sgt Mark Wysocky says it is hard to separate texting drivers from drunken drivers as he cruises down a suburban interstate highway.
Both weave. They speed up and slow down for no obvious reason and get too close to other cars. They endanger their lives and others.
“There’s one,” he says, as a woman zips past. But even though he could see her texting, he couldn’t ticket her – Florida statutes wouldn’t allow it because she wasn’t breaking any other traffic laws.
Florida, with some of the nation’s deadliest roads, is one of the last states to not fully ban texting while driving, but the Legislature will soon consider a bill that would – although studies conflict over whether such bans have any effect.
Currently, Florida law says texting by non-commercial drivers is a secondary offence – law-enforcement officers must see another violation like speeding or an illegal lane change before they cite a driver for texting.
The bill would make texting a primary offence. The fine for a first offence would remain US$30 plus court costs and add no points to the driver’s record. Previous attempts have failed, but this bill has support from legislative leaders.
Forty-three American states already make texting while driving a primary offence. Three besides Florida list it as a secondary offence – Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota.
The federal government estimates that in 2015 accidents involving texting and other distracted driving killed almost 3,500 people nationally – nearly 10 per day – and injured almost 400,000.