Florida imposes new ban on texting while driving

Over the last several years, there has been a huge national discussion about the dangers of texting while driving. In response, most states banned drivers from using their cellphones or other handheld devices to send or read messages while operating a vehicle.

Until recently, Florida had not joined this group. However, in May, Florida became the 41st state to prohibit motorists from texting while driving. This was the fifth time that Florida lawmakers had tried to implement a texting ban. The law will take effect in October 2013.

While the texting ban is certainly a step forward for driving safety in Florida, some worry that it does not go far enough. The law makes texting while driving a secondary offense. This means that police can only pull over drivers who are observed breaking another traffic law, like speeding, running a red light or failing to stay in their lane. In other states, drivers can be pulled over and ticketed simply for using their cellphones.

Drivers underestimate texting dangers

Advocates of the new legislation hope that it will play a part in stemming the tide of distracted driving accidents that are plaguing American roads. According to a recent study from Cohen Children's Medical Center, texting and driving car accidents are the number one cause of death for teenagers in the United States. That study found that more than 3,000 teens die in accidents involving texting drivers every year. Another 300,000 experience injuries that are severe enough to warrant hospital treatment.

Of course, teens are not the only ones who are guilty of using their phones behind the wheel. According to data from the National Safety Council, 28 percent of all car accidents can be traced back to a driver who was using a cellphone to talk or text.

In Florida, more than 4,800 car accidents in 2012 were caused by using a cellphone behind the wheel, according to a report from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

Of course, a texting ban can only do so much to discourage drivers from using their cellphones behind the wheel. Ultimately, the responsibility is on drivers to make good decisions.

Many people use cellphones while driving because they do not realize how dangerous the behavior really is. Data published by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration shows that texting while driving makes drivers 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. In fact, at highway speeds, sending or reading a text message takes a driver's eyes off the road for a distance equivalent to driving blindfolded down an entire football field. Drivers in Florida would be wise to keep these statistics in mind whenever they feel tempted to pull out their cellphones.