Several Florida lawmakers hope to increase the penalties for texting while driving violations, including making texting while driving a primary offense in Florida. Such changes are long overdue, according to accident attorney David J. Glatthorn, who handles distracted driver cases in Florida.
"Even though texting while driving is against the law in Florida, far too many drivers continue to text and drive and cause serious car accidents in West Palm Beach and other cities throughout South Florida," Glatthorn said. "Hopefully, several proposals in the state legislature will change this situation. Part of the problem involves the pathetic penalties for people who break these laws. That needs to change. There needs to be real consequences for such reckless behavior."
Florida state Rep. Richard Stark, D-Weston, has filed a bill with the state House of Representatives that would double the fines for texting while driving in a school zone, according to a News 4 JAX story about Stark's proposed bill. (News 4 JAX, "Lawmakers crack down on texting while driving," Aug. 11, 2015) Currently, the penalty for such violations carries a $30 fine in Florida.
In addition, Stark's proposal would make texting while driving a primary offense in Florida, News 4 JAX reports. That means Florida police officers could stop a driver simply for texting while driving. Currently, police officers can only pull someone over for texting if the driver is breaking another law.
"Certain things do not mix, and texting while driving especially in Florida is one of them," Stark wrote in an editorial published by The Gainesville Sun newspaper. (The Gainesville Sun, "Richard Stark: End texting while driving in Florida," Nov. 21, 2014) Stark added in his editorial, "There is a study that claims that Florida is the sixth worst state to drive in, and the category that propels the Sunshine State is distracted and careless driving."
Florida is one of only five states nationwide with laws banning texting that does not allow police officers to pull drivers over simply for texting while driving, News 4 JAX reports. Overall, 46 states in the country have laws banning texting while driving for all drivers, as of this month, according to the Governor's Highway Safety Association website.
Other Florida lawmakers also support strengthening the state's texting while driving laws. State Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, state Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, and state Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, all support legislation that would increase the penalties for texting while driving in Florida, according to an editorial written by the Palm Beach Post in support of such measures. (Palm Beach Post, "Does Florida need stronger laws against texting while driving?," April 14, 2015)
Whichever bill makes it to the floor of Florida's legislature, more clearly needs to be done to put an end to texting while driving in Florida, according to attorney Glatthorn.
"We can't sit back and do nothing while innocent people are being seriously injured or worse by texting drivers," Glatthorn said. "And one of the best ways to deter people from texting while driving is to severely punish people who do so."
"Drinking and driving used to be a serious problem across the country," Glatthorn added. "Drunk driving accidents still occur nowadays. But there are far fewer accidents caused by drunk drivers. Hopefully, that same stigma will apply to texting while driving. Most reasonable people would never dream of drinking and driving. They need to start thinking the same way about texting behind the wheel, and these legislative proposals are a step in the right direction."