Until now, a legal loophole has made it difficult for police officers to enforce Florida’s ban on texting while driving. State lawmakers are becoming concerned about this issue. However, it may soon be resolved in order to allow for more stringent enforcement of the law against distracted drivers.
Even under the existing law, drivers have a legal duty of care to other road users. Accidents caused by distracted driving can result in a negligent driver being obligated to compensate victims for their injuries. A West Palm Beach car accident attorney can help injury victims protect their legal rights after any type of auto accident.
The Legal Loophole - And How It May Be Closed
According to the Palm Beach Post, texting while driving is currently not a “primary offense” in Florida. This means that a motorist cannot be stopped just for violating the texting law. Another traffic, civil, or criminal offense must be observed before a police officer can pull the driver over.
Despite the fact that distracted driving has increased between 2015 and 2016, state legislators still refuse to implement distracted driving bills. State Representative Emily Slosberg was not able to even get a hearing for her proposed bill making texting while driving a primary offense. Her fellow state legislators told her they were not convinced that distracted driving penalties actually deterred the behavior.
But now state lawmakers are taking a closer look at the issue. The Claims Journal reports that the state legislature will soon consider a bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense. This would allow officers to stop drivers and issue citations for texting while driving without observing any other infraction. Florida would then join the 43 other states which have fully prohibited texting while driving. There is still some opposition to this movement within Florida.
Some legislators remain unconvinced that “primary offense” laws actually result in a decrease in distracted driving. Other have expressed concern that such a law will result in racial profiling. One state senator points to the effect of Florida’s seat belt law. When failure to use a seat belt was made a primary offense in 2009, black drivers were found to be cited for the offense far more frequently than white drivers - despite the fact that research showed black drivers were only slightly less likely to buckle up.
The senator agrees that the law would save lives, but he wants to gather data to determine whether minority drivers are unfairly targeted by the law. Still other legislators simply feel that such a law is too intrusive. The current law allows texting drivers to be stopped for swerving, tailgating, or reckless driving. Opponents of the change argue that this legal structure is sufficient to protect the public.
A texting citation can help establish a driver’s negligence, but it is not the only way in which an injury victim can establish that he or she is entitled to compensation from a distracted driver. A West Palm Beach car accident attorney can help injury victims file claims, establish negligence, and determine whether to accept a settlement offer or file a lawsuit.