Distracted driving is the leading cause of automobile accidents. Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. In 2013, the National Safety Council estimated that there were 1.4 million crashes in the United States involving cell phone use. Moreover, teenagers drivers, with less experience behind the wheel, are more likely to text while driving. A study by the University of Michigan Transportation Research institute concluded that 25 percent of teens respond to a text message once or more every time they drive. Texting while driving at any age can be dangerous and Florida lawmakers are responding to this behavior.

A texting while driving bill is getting closer to becoming law. If passed, Florida would join 43 other states by making texting while driving a primary offense, allowing law enforcement to pull people over solely for texting behind the wheel. Since 2013, texting while driving is illegal in the State of Florida and can result in a ticket and a fine. However, texting while driving is enforced as a secondary offense meaning that law enforcement cannot pull drivers over for texting as an offense on its own, but only after witnessing another violation such as speeding or expired tags. Citations for these types of offenses are rare. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, only 1,400 citations were issued for texting while driving in 2016.

The proposal to make texting while driving a primary offense has met criticism from black legislators and civil rights advocates, who are concerned that this type of law would lead to disproportionate enforcement and increased racial profiling. A Florida law making seat belt violations a primary offense seemed to have this undesired consequence.  A 2014 study by the American Civil Liberties Union, found that black drivers in Florida were nearly twice as likely as whites to be stopped for violating state laws requiring motorists to wear seatbelts. To combat this potential civil rights violation, law enforcement are now required to record the race and ethnicity of seatbelt law violators. Accordingly, adaptations like this are being made to the texting while driving bill to help quash these concerns. The bill’s language is also being tweaked to mandate that if law enforcement wants to search someone’s phone to check to see if they were texting behind the wheel, they would need to tell the driver they have the right to decline the search. If the driver declines, law enforcement would need a warrant to search through the phone.

Wittmer & Linehan PLLC knows that distracted driving can have tragic consequences. If you are a loved one are injured as a direct result of someone else’s distracted driving, our team of experienced staff and attorneys will help you recover your losses and damages. We will immediately become your advocate, starting with protecting vital evidence from your car accident all the way through taking your case to trial. Our attorneys have over 35 combined years of experience litigating Sarasota car accidents and we are here to help you better understand your rights.