BikeWalkLee has advocated for FL legislation to ban texting while driving since it's launch in 2009, and published a commentary on the topic last January. With just released data, we learn that traffic fatalities in Florida are up 4 percent this year and Governor Scott has asked state officials to study whether action needs to be taken on texting while driving. You think?? Below is an article out of Orlando about the report (note that for some reason there has been no local reporting of this important news).
South Florida Sun-Sentinel.comBy Kathleen Haughney, Tallahassee Bureau
8:13 PM EDT, October 23, 2012
TALLAHASSEE – A new report that traffic fatalities are up by four percent this year has top state officials taking a closer look at texting while driving.
Scott's comments came after Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles Director Julie Jones delivered a report to the Florida Cabinet on the rise in fatalities. Both Scott and Bondi immediately asked whether the agency knew if these accidents were caused by drivers who were texting or for other reasons.
Scott acknowledged that getting the information directly from the driver may be difficult. "Who's going to say that they were distracted by texting?" he said.
Jones said it was difficult to say because texting while driving was not currently an offense in Florida and thus may or may not show up on a crash report, making analysis difficult. All she could offer was that most of the crashes were the results of accidents, not criminal behavior.
After the meeting, Scott said that he would like Jones' department to try to get more data to see if texting is an issue that the state should take a closer look at.
"I think that we ought to continue to look at ways to make our state safer," he said.
Like Scott, Bondi stopped short of calling for an all-out ban, but said she too wanted to get more information from the department and encouraged drivers to abstain from the practice.
"I've about gotten killed by people texting while driving while on the road," she said. "You see people swerving all the time. So I was just curious."
According to the Highway Safety department, 1,958 people have died in Florida traffic accidents so far this year, up from 1,866 at this point in 2011.
Jones said the increase may be because more vehicles are on the road, a trend nationally. But she said that some states with texting bans were not seeing a similar spike; she did not offer specifics. Texting while driving is banned in 39 states and Washington, D.C.
Proposals to ban texting while driving have passed in the Florida Senate but have died for several years in the House.
That hasn't stopped some private companies from banning their employees from engaging in the practice. Walt Disney World and Orange County have bans in place, and Orlando-based Darden Restaurants has implemented a policy preventing workers with company phones from texting while driving.
In South Florida, the Fort Lauderdale-based AutoNation has handed out magnets with the message "TXT=RIP" and has asked employees who buy cars from a company dealership to agree not to text while they are behind the wheel.
Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, who has championed the issue in the past, has promised to reintroduce the issue. Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, in the midst of a tough re-election battle, also said via press release this week that she is introducing legislation to ban the practice.
Sachs said her measure would make texting or emailing while driving a primary offense, meaning a police officer could pull over a driver just for texting.
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