Following five years of debate, Florida has finally passed a ban on texting while driving. The new law is slated to become effective on January 1, 2014, and will allow law enforcement officers to issue tickets to those violating the ban.
Critics of the new law say the relatively low penalty (around $60) and secondary penalty status (the law does not allow an officer to pull a driver over for texting unless he or she is also violating another traffic law) is not enough of a deterrent to have any significant impact on highway safety. The newly minted bill does allow drivers to be ticketed while stopped at stop signs or traffic lights.
Texting while driving has been recognized over the last few years as one type of distracted driving. There are a number of factors that make texting while driving dangerous, such as:
Takes eyes off the road – the average text requires between four and 20 seconds of attention. That is more than enough to cause a serious or fatal accident
Is practiced widely by teenagers – immature and inexperienced drivers require more focus to maintain vehicular control than older, more experienced drivers. Even a momentary distraction can mean trouble.
Divides concentration – driving already requires multitasking, and texting further divides a driver’s attention causing reduced attention on driving.
Promotes poor vision behavior – vision behaviorists warn that the shift of focus required to read a text up close, then switch quickly back to the road causes eye strain and fatigue.
According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Commission, in 2011 alone, over 3,000 people were killed in distracted driving accidents involving cellphones and other handheld devices.