The legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog was recently approached by several cell phone companies. The mission? To create a public service announcement outlining the dangers of texting while driving. The result is a haunting short film, called From One Second to the Next that chronicles four catastrophic stories of texting while driving.
Herzog isn’t the only one talking about the dangers of being a distracted driver. Comedians on late-night TV are joking about it; major cell phone companies like AT&T are heading online campaigns against it; the Department of Transportation has created a whole website dedicated to distracted driving; and 40 other states have already banned texting while driving.
Finally, on October 1, the Florida Ban on Texting while Driving Law went into effect, making Florida the 41st state in which it is illegal to text and drive. And it hasn’t been an easy task bringing the bill, headed by state Sen. Nancy Deter, into law. Competing interest groups and political concerns about limiting individual liberties have created roadblocks for nearly five years. Gov. Rick Scott has vetoed a funding campaign to educate the public about the new law, but here are the facts:
- Texting while driving is a secondary offense in Florida, meaning that a police officer may not pull a driver over for texting alone. Drivers must be pulled over for some other driving infraction in order to get additionally fined for texting.
- It is illegal to type or read texts while driving, but drivers may text when the vehicle is stationary for any reason.
- Anyone reporting a criminal activity or an emergency is exempt from the law.
- Drivers may receive text messages related to navigation, weather, or traffic.
- Talk-to-text technology remains legal while driving
- Police may check a driver’s cell phone records only in a crash resulting in death or injuries.
- Fines for texting while driving are $30 for a first offense and $60 for a second offense within five years.
Many Florida lawmakers want a tougher law on the books. According to The Tampa Tribune, state Sen. Maria Sachs plans to file a stricter bill for lawmakers to consider that will make texting a primary offense.
While the new texting law is a step in the right direction, the statistics belie a more profound safety problem — one that will eventually need to be addressed more seriously here in Florida. The statistics tell the story. Take a look at these from Distraction.gov, and think twice before you respond to that text while on the move. Is it more important than arriving alive?
- Sending or receiving a text takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent — at 55 mph — of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.
- At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving.
- In 2011, 3,331 people were killed in vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver, and almost 400,000 people were injured.
- 11% of all drivers under the age of 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported as distracted at the time of the crash. This age group has the largest proportion of drivers who were distracted.
- For drivers 15 to 19 years old involved in fatal crashes, 21 percent of the distracted drivers were distracted by the use of cell phones.