It was just two years ago that Florida’s law that made texting and driving a primary traffic offense went into effect. At the time, Gov. Ron DeSantis promised that the law would “make our roads safer.”
Unfortunately, it appears that law enforcement in the Sunshine State is rarely enforcing the law, so its impact in reducing distracted driving car accidents likely is minimal so far.
The numbers are not encouraging
The state keeps track of the number of texting while driving tickets issued each year. The official report stated that sheriff’s departments in 20 of Florida’s 67 counties did not report issuing a single ticket in 2020, including the heavily populated Broward County. When a reporter checked with Broward County officials, who said its deputies issued 18 texting and driving tickets — still a tiny number, but more than reported in the official census. Nearby Miami-Dade County reported just 295 tickets.
In total, there were just 3,410 texting and driving tickets written in Florida last year. While pandemic-related lockdowns may have contributed to the low total, it is hard to imagine that police could catch fewer than ten distracted drivers per day in a state with more than 15 million licensed drivers. Like Broward County, several departments later said they never reported their tickets, but when asked by reporters, the numbers they gave were paltry.
What is going on?
It is unclear why this is happening, but law enforcement says the texting law has too many loopholes. For example, police can only pull over a driver for texting if the vehicle is in motion and the officer has a reasonable suspicion the driver is texting.
It is clear that texting drivers will continue to cause serious and deadly car accidents in Sarasota and across Florida for the foreseeable future. Responsible drivers know that texting behind the wheel is a dangerous and unnecessary activity. But they cannot know when a distracted driver might crash into them, seriously injuring them.