Texting While Driving: Stop Typing at the Wheel
Kudos to state Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, who is trying – for the third time – to curtail the risky practice of texting on cell phones while driving in Florida.
Holder filed anti-texting bills in the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions, but they didn’t gain traction. Now he has filed one for the 2010 session, scheduled for next spring.
Legislation is needed on this issue, as a crucial step in raising public awareness about a growing danger.
Researchers say that texting while operating a moving vehicle drastically increases the risk of a crash, because the visual distraction takes drivers’ eyes off the road.
Holder’s measure (HB 41) would prohibit "operation of moving motor vehicle while reading, manually writing or typing, or sending message on electronic wireless communications device."
CONGRESSIONAL LEGISLATION TOO
Exceptions would be made in cases where the texter is reporting a crime, summoning medical or emergency help, or attempting to prevent injury. Violating the ban would be deemed a noncriminal traffic infraction.
Holder’s bill coincides with new U.S. Senate legislation that would slash federal highway funding for states that fail to ban texting while driving. Vigorous debate on these measures may yield amendments – hopefully those that would enhance public safety.
As skeptics have noted, texting prohibitions could be tricky to enforce. It can be hard for officers to see a small wireless device inside a vehicle, and difficult in some cases to prove that a driver was texting while the car was in motion, as opposed to idled at a stoplight.
These are significant concerns. Legislators must do something, however, to address state law’s current silence on the subject of texting while driving. That silence sends a message of complacency about an irresponsible practice that puts other motorists, pedestrians and cyclists at risk.