There is no denying that there are currently a number of hot debates about traffic laws in Broward County. Sometimes, the state of contention on many traffic issues is valid such as what the true purpose of using red light traffic cameras is – public safety or generating funds for the cities or counties that have them installed? Then there are other traffic laws that are in place for reasons that I feel are irrefutable such as drinking and driving or texting while driving. Drinking and driving has been an issue for so long that there is unassailable proof that alcohol impairs driving. The only matter that is up for debate is how much is too much based upon individual tolerance which is why the State of Florida has set a blood alcohol content (BAC) standard.
Texting while driving is a different matter entirely. Those who are proponents of a ban of texting or cell phone use altogether in Florida draw a parallel between texting while driving and drunk driving. One major difference, however, is that even with drunk driving your eyes are generally focused on the road, whereas with texting your focus is on your electronic device for several seconds at a time. One governmental study showed that whether sending a text or reading a text, a driver’s attention is taken off of the road for nearly 5 seconds. This statistic should make any driver who considers texting while driving stop doing so and evaluate the risks they pose to themselves and the other drivers on the road.
Currently, texting while driving is a secondary offense in the State of Florida. This means that you cannot be pulled over for it, but you can get a traffic ticket for it if you are pulled over for another traffic violation. This may seem like a safe ‘out’, but if a Broward County cop sees you texting, he can easily find a primary reason to pull you over and include texting on the traffic ticket as the secondary offense. Something that may seems inconsequential to you such as failing to use your turn signal when changing lanes gives a cop justification to pull you if he sees you texting.
Texting is considered distracted driving, and if ticketed for it, the penalties for doing so can be $30 to $50 plus whatever court costs are levied. Additionally, the Department of Motor Vehicles assesses points against the license of repeat offenders, those who text in school zones, or for those involved in an accident while texting. It is true that there are many other things that lead to distracted driving such as adjusting your air conditioning to changing a CD, but texting should be the distraction that elicits the greatest concern. Even though texting while driving is related to 23% of all accidents, one possible reason that it is still only a secondary offense in Florida is because when other states have tried to enact laws banning it, they have found them difficult to enforce. Granted there are many times that texting-related accidents involve adults, but more frequently, these accidents occur as a result of texting by teenage drivers. A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) showed that 21% of 15- to 19-year old drivers who were involved in fatal accidents were distracted by the use of cell phones.
It is particularly difficult to convey the dangers of cell phone use to teenagers since cell phones were nationally released in 1983, but have only been in common use since the 1990s. Those of us who remember when you had to actually get out of your car to make a phone call may be a little more inclined to understand the life-changing hazards that are associated with driving and cell phone use. Not always having a cell phone as a readily available tool that you can just pull out of your pocket or your purse may give those of us over 25 a different perspective on their use. Because cell phone use has been a part of the lives of most people under a certain age, I have never met a teen who didn’t feel they were perfectly capable of talking, texting, singing along with the radio, and drinking a cup of designer coffee all while pressing the boundaries of whatever the speed limit may be.
Even though this is a topic that has been greatly debated since before most of today’s teenagers have been licensed, 96% of teens stated that it would take an accident while texting and driving to actually deter them from doing so again. Nearly 2/3 of these said that if they had received appropriate education regarding cell phone use and driving, they would probably stop texting while driving. Of course, like with many other matters dealing with teens, 84% of these drivers said they would stop texting and driving if there were stiff penalties or rewards for them not doing so.
That is a telling point in how this very serious issue can be addressed. Just like with other very critical matters such as drinking or drug use that we as parents are charged to address, if we talk to our kids about the importance of not using a cell phone when driving, we could ultimately be saving their life or the life of someone else. We also need to remember to set the example for our kids. Regardless of our busy lives, that business call can wait until you get the kids to the soccer game. Another important thing to consider is the impact that teens have on their friends. If you have a teen who feels that it is unsafe to use a cell phone when driving, have them talk to their friends about it if they see it occur. Teens are likely to be affected by the good influences as much as they are the bad influences.
As a traffic ticket attorney, I am the last person who wants to see the civil liberties of others compromised. As a driver on Broward County roads, however, my safety and that of others around me is a concern. When it comes to texting, there is no doubt that some amount of the driver’s attention is removed from his or her driving when texting. The crux of the problem when it comes to traffic laws that govern texting is that there is no way to determine how much focus is taken away from a driver when texting. This makes setting a standard virtually impossible. If laws were structured to make a big psychological impact on not just teens but everyone who texts and drives, it is more likely to dissuade them from continuing to do so. If someone is caught texting while driving, make them take a class which discusses real-life incidents that result from doing so. Make it a finable offense and if it is a teen that commits the violation, make the teen pay the fine, not mom or dad.
We hope this blog was helpful and that it might even save a life or two. If you get a speeding ticket, or any other citation, please feel free to call the Traffic Ticket Team for a free consultation at (954) 967-9888.