Sen. Maria Sachs called for the state to get tougher on the texting and driving ban. As it stands, texting and driving in Florida is only a secondary offense, which means a citation can be issued only when the driver is already seen committing another offense, like running a red light or driving with expired tags, or speeding. On Wednesday, Sachs told reporters gathered at the Capitol in Tallahassee that the current law has not done the job.
“It has not worked,” she said. “Secondary enforcement of this ban has not been effective at stopping the loss of lives.”
Sachs has proposed Senate Bill 246, which would make texting while driving a primary offense, and allow police to pull drivers over just for texting while driving. The bill would also stiffen penalties when someone is caught texting and driving in a school zone, or school crossing.
Sachs, a Democrat who represents Broward and Palm Beach counties, has been calling for the ban to move beyond its secondary offense since last year.
In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 3,000 people died in the U.S. in distraction-affected crashes, according to the U.S. government's distracted driving website. The National Safety Council estimates that number to be 200,000 accidents per year caused by texting while driving.
According to Sachs' website, Palm Beach County’s traffic deaths jumped by 21 percent from 2011 to 2012 with law enforcement citing cell phones as a key reason. The website also cites a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration statistic that shows drivers are 23 times more likely to crash while texting and driving.
Sach's claim that the law isn't working might be on point. Since the law went into effect in October of 2013, only 168 texting while driving citations had been issued in the county one year into the law, according to a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol who spoke with New Times.
Moreover, Sachs argues that the $30 fine levied to anyone texting and driving is not enough to deter people from doing it. A primary offense would make the citation tougher.
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As of now, 44 states have banned texting while driving. Of the 44, five states have it as a secondary offense. Florida is one of the five.
You can read Sachs' bill below:
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