Texting ban needs to pass now

By Steve Estes

For the umpteenth year in a row, the state Legislature has introduced a bill that would ban texting while driving on Florida’s highways and byways.

And for the umpteenth year in a row, this is a piece of legislation that is sorely needed.

Regardless of the cause, any law enforcement professional will readily say that distracted driving is one of the leading causes of traffic accidents.

And texting while driving is certainly a distraction.

Lawmakers have thus far, even after several attempts by concerned colleagues, turned back every attempt to have texting banned while driving in Florida.

Other states, with elected officials much more concerned about public safety, have not only instituted the ban on texting, but have also gone so far as to prohibit cell phone use behind the wheel except with a hands-free device.

And that’s not such a bad idea either.

Traffic crashes resulting from texting are very hard to document for public safety professionals. There are so many other factors that play into the investigation of a traffic accident, and it’s fairly certain that survivors of traffic crashes caused by texting drivers aren’t going to readily admit that’s what they were doing when they drifted across the center line and slammed head on into another vehicle, or slid across the lane marker and bumped off the car next to them.

Texting has become so popular among the younger generation that occupants in the same car will text one another rather than strike up a conversation.

There are phone apps that allow one to speak a text or email and have the phone do the work without the need to use a hand for the process, but they are not yet the norm, particularly among the younger drivers among us.

Lawmakers appear to worry how law enforcement professionals will recognize a texting driver if they make it a primary offense. That didn’t concern lawmakers when they made a lack of seatbelts a primary offense, and then had to scale back window tinting in a sub-tropical climate so officers could see into the car to determine seat belt use.

If the car is weaving, something definitely not right is going on inside.

That should give officers all they need to drag that car to the side of the road and find out what’s not right inside.

How else do we find inebriated drivers?

We believe the reason texting while driving gains no traction with our elected officials is because they don’t want to establish a new law that will nab them as much or more than other groups.

And that’s not watching out for public safety.

Watching out for public safety would be to, with all haste, enact a ban on texting while driving and give our law enforcement personnel a stable of programs with which to enforce the ban.

Our elected leaders should give the law enough teeth that folks who cavalierly endanger the rest of the motoring public, just like drunk drivers, face stiff fines, restitution, community service and potential loss of driving privileges.

A new law without both of those guidelines is doomed to be another unenforceable boondoggle for our law enforcement professionals, and a time-waster for our already over-crowded court system.

We can take up the mantle of such idiocy as mandatory ultrasounds for women who consider abortion, or carrying guns in public parks, or divesting minorities of the right to vote, or forcing our tens of millions of tourists each year to get a US driver’s license before they can hit our streets, but we can’t do something as elementary as protect our loved ones by banning what we all know is a dangerous and widespread practice…texting while driving.

The time for excuses is gone.

The time for action on this issue is here.

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