Proposal to Introduce Texting While Driving Ban Raises Controversy
The Florida Senate has introduced a bill that seeks to eliminate texting while driving by making it a primary driving offense. The ban would allow police officers to stop drivers who use a mobile device behind the wheel. Currently, police can only ticket drivers for texting while driving after they stop the driver for a primary traffic violation and tack on the texting charges to the ticket. Right now, texting while driving incurs a mere $20 fine and results in no points against your driver’s license. That may change if the Florida legislature passes SB 90.
Should Texting Behind the Wheel be Banned Outright?
Many believe a texting ban is a practical solution to a growing problem as texting while driving results in tragic loss of life every day on Florida streets and highways. Some research has demonstrated that texting while driving is more dangerous than drunk driving. Texting is uniquely distracting because it takes a person’s mind, eyes, and hands away from the task of driving, keeping them from controlling their steering and increasing their reaction times.
Florida is one of just four states where texting while driving remains a secondary traffic violation. The proposed legislation would let police officers stop a driver if they see them fumbling on their phone behind the wheel and nothing else. Several groups strongly support the bill, including groups representing police, parents, doctors, and businesses. The bill also has strong bipartisan support, yet some black legislators oppose the bill, showing concerns that the law would provide one more avenue for police to carry out abuses against people of color.
Fighting Racial Disparities
Senator Perry Thurston of Lauderhill claims a new traffic violation could be a used as a pretext to stop people of color, citing racial disparities in traffic law enforcement documented by the American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU found that black and Hispanic drivers are more likely to be pulled over for the same behaviors and offenses than whites, and once stopped, they are more likely to be subjected to police searches. In certain Florida counties, black drivers are several times more likely than white drivers to be stopped and ticketed for traffic violations.
There have been many instances in which police use a routine traffic stop as an excuse to conduct an illegal search. Not all members of the black caucus are opposed to the law, but they bring to light the fact that police already use several pretexts to single out people of color for committing routine traffic violations.
Just How Dangerous is Distracted Driving?
Without strong enforcement, the number of distracted driving collisions and the resulting deaths has dramatically climbed since 2013. In 2013, approximately 39,000 distracted driving crashes took place. In 2016, this number rose to over 49,000. Orange County reported over 6,000 distracted driving in 2016 — more than any other county in Florida. These collisions caused over 230 deaths that year.
Attorneys with The Umansky Law Firm aggressively fight traffic tickets throughout Central Florida. If you have received a citation or a parking ticket, one of our attorneys can appear for you in court to challenge the police officer who issued the citation. By fighting the traffic ticket, you may be able to avoid court fees and points against your driver’s license. Find out how we can help by calling our office or contact us online.