Wednesday, May 29, 2013

New Florida law bans texting while driving

Points added to driver's license if cell phone used during crash

Gov. Rick Scott has signed a new law banning texting while driving, in an effort to make Florida roads safer for everyone.

The law, which becomes effective Oct. 1, forbids motorists from texting or e-mailing while driving. But critics say the law will be hard to enforce and has too many exemptions. For starters, they note that police will only be able to cite a motorist for illegally driving while texting only if the officer is already citing that motorist for another infraction, such as running a red light.

Scott says law sends clear message 

The governor said the law sends a clear message that texting while driving is illegal.

“Just the fact that it’ll be illegal to text and drive, I think that’s going to stop our teenagers, stop citizens from texting and driving,” the Miami Herald quoted the governor as saying when he signed the law on Tuesday.

Exemptions from new law

Motorists are exempt from the law if they are using their phone for its GPS, to listen to the radio or weather alerts, or texting while using a voice-assisted device, such as iPhone’s Siri. They are also exempt if their car is stationary, such as at a red light or in a traffic jam.

The law does not allow police officers to check a motorist’s phone history to verify whether a phone was being used, except in cases of an accident involving a death or personal injury.

Penalties for infractions

A first infraction carries a penalty of $30. A second offense committed within the first five years after the first infraction carries a penalty of $60.

A penalty of six points will be added to a motorist’s driver’s licenses if the unlawful use of a cellphone results in a crash. A penalty of two points will be added to a motorist’s driver’s license if the motorist is illegally using a cellphone while committing a moving violation, in addition to the points for the moving violation.

Safety groups say law is not enough

The National Safety Council, a non-profit safety advocacy, organization, recommends a total ban on cell phone use, including hands-free devices. The group’s stance is that motorists should always have their full attention on the road. About 25 percent of all crashes in 2011 involved drivers talking or texting on their cell phone, according to the group.

A study from the Texas A&M Transportation Institute  found no difference in safety between texting using voice-to-text technology and manual texting while driving. That study found that motorists still had to look at their phone to check the accuracy of the text they had dictated.

Photo credit: Intel Free Press

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