Texting while driving became illegal in Florida on Oct. 1, 2013. However, Sunshine State drivers are continuing to text behind the wheel, WTSP.com reported recently.
The television station reported on a recent AAA survey in which 40 percent of drivers ages 19 to 39 admitted that they text while driving. More than 50 percent said that they talk on the phone while behind the wheel. These figures could be understated, because many drivers may not admit to texting, said Michelle Harris, an AAA spokesperson.
Law enforcement faces difficulty citing drivers for violating the law. Without a subpoena to look at a driver’s texting device, it’s almost impossible to tell whether a driver was texting or just checking the time.
In addition, texting is considered a secondary offense in Florida, which means a law enforcement officer must first pull over a driver for another offense, such as speeding.
The TV station contacted police in Polk and Pinellas counties who said they had written a few citations for texting while driving. None had been handed out in Hillsborough County.
Many believe that Florida’s texting law needs to be strengthened, and two bills have been proposed for the next legislative session that would do just that. One of the bills would prohibit using a cellphone while driving in a school zone. The other one would make texting while driving a primary offense.
Steve Augello, whose 17-year-old daughter was killed in an accident in which texting was suspected, plans to fight for a stronger law. “I know it’s going to hurt the rest of my life,” he said. “And I don’t want to see anybody else go through what we’re going through.”
AAA believes that public attitudes toward texting while driving need to change, just as people came to accept seatbelt laws and tougher laws against drunk driving.
All drivers should put away electronic devices while behind the wheel, not just because it’s the law, but because it can reduce car accidents and save lives.