I am a traffic ticket attorney; it’s what I do and there is a reason that I do it. I practice traffic ticket law because I see so many people who receive traffic tickets that are frivolous and often arbitrary. Let’s just call it what it is – dumb. Many of the traffic laws that are in place are a blatant way to enforce what amounts to a secondary tax system upon the state’s citizens. I have spent nearly 20 years fighting the laws that I see as a method of bullying people. There are, however, some laws that are enacted for the protection of the masses that I think are good laws. These laws pertain to distracted driving, and I think they are among those that should be enacted and enforced.
Distracted driving could be anything from setting your radio station to adjusting your air conditioning, but the one driving distraction that concerns me most is texting while driving. Texting while driving is responsible for 25% of traffic accidents. According to the official U.S. government website on distracted driving, sending or receiving a text message takes the driver’s eyes off of the road for about 4.6 seconds. This is the equivalent of driving 55 mph down the length of a football field – blind. This startling statistic should make anyone who texts and drives stop to think about what risks they are taking not just for themselves, but those around them.
Those who propose banning texting or cell phone use altogether in the State of Florida use the analogy that texting while driving is like driving while drunk. The primary difference is that even with drunk driving, your eyes are generally focused on the road (or roads, depending on how much you have had to drink), whereas with texting, your focus is on your electronic device for several seconds at a time.
Although it is not a law in the State of Florida yet to text and drive, it is considered a secondary offense. That means that, although you can’t get pulled over for texting and driving, you can get a citation for it if you are pulled over for another matter. You may be thinking, “Well, as long as I am doing nothing else wrong, it is fine for me to text and drive.” Think again. If cop sees you texting while driving, he can most assuredly find another reason to pull you over. One mile an hour over the speed limit, driving too slowly, “distracted” driving of another sort…if he wants to pull you over, he’ll find a reason. Maybe one of the reasons that it has not been made into a law in Florida yet is because other states have found it hard to enforce. It would take an admission of texting while driving before a cop could actually “catch” you.
Most of the stories that we hear about accidents occurring due to texting while driving involve teenagers. This is not to say that adults don’t text and drive, but according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA) 15- to 19-year-old drivers who were involved in fatal crashes due to distracted driving, 21% were distracted through the use of cell phones.
It seems especially difficult for teens who have grown up with a cell phone in their hands to realize the impact that texting and driving can have upon them and those around them. I have never met a teen driver who didn’t feel they could talk, text, sing along with the radio, and drink a triple mocha latte all while hurtling down the highway at 55 mph in a one-ton projectile. Yet when interviewed, 96% of teens stated that it would take an accident while texting and driving to actually deter them from doing so again. Two-thirds stated that had they been properly educated by friends and family, they would likely stop texting while driving. In true “me” generation style, 84% of teen drivers admitted that if there were laws that imposed high penalties, they would likely stop texting, and nearly as many admitted that they would probably stop if they were somehow rewarded for doing so.
Hopefully, both parents and legislators will read this blog and start formulating laws based upon what most of us know about teenagers. They tend to live in the moment and usually don’t understand the consequences of their actions until it’s too late. If laws were structured to make a big psychological impact on teens regarding texting and driving, 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 that the teen has to pay – not mom or dad. The laws that apply to texting and driving have to be different than those for other traffic offenses. They should target the largest demographic that is committing the offense (teens) and approach it as with any other unacceptable behavior among teens.
This is not the first blog that I have written on this subject, so it is not the first time that I have stated what I consider to be critical points in trying to save your life, the life of a loved one, or even the life of a stranger.
#1 TALK-TALK-TALK – Just like every other important issue that you want to impart upon your children, educating your teenagers about the dangers of texting while driving is critical. Tell them real-life stories of kids dying from texting while driving. Explain to them the many scenarios that can occur, and don’t be afraid to show them stories, pictures, or videos that can be found online that show the devastating effects of texting while driving.
#2 FRIENDS DON’T TEXT & DRIVE – As we all know, teens are usually self-conscious and worry that their friends will think they are not cool. Give your teens the confidence and skills to tell their friends that they will not ride with someone who is texting. Also assure your teen that if they are in that situation, you will pick them up anytime from anywhere if they feel their friend is driving in an unsafe manner. This should be true whether the friend is texting, drinking, or otherwise driving recklessly.
#3 DO AS I SAY – And as I DO. As anyone who has had kids knows, it is imperative to lead by example, and although this is good in theory, every parent falls short on occasion. Just make sure that doesn’t happen when it comes to texting and driving. Teens tend to think their parents are not as good at things as they are, nor as knowledgeable, so if they see you do it, they will probably think they can do it better. Try to avoid talking on the phone at all. Put your phone in the glove box or a purse to create the idea of being detached from it while in the car. If my phone rings while I am driving I do not even answer it. If the person calls back quickly, I will pull over and tell whoever is calling (in front of my kids) that I can’t talk now because I am driving, and I will call them back later. The truth is that if you don’t set a good example about cell phone use, your kids will not follow your encouragement.
#4 REWARD THEM – Whenever you see them following the rules for cell phone use, tell them that you will give them gas money. I remember being a teenager and finding gas money for my car was always a strong motive for doing something. Give them a “bonus” every time they tell you a story about correcting someone else for texting and driving.
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.