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Saturday, Apr 19, 2014
Editorials

The House’s texting violation

Published:

Florida lawmakers should be ashamed of themselves if a proposal to ban texting while driving fails to pass into law this year.

Government statistics show that more than 3,300 people were killed, and another 387,000 injured, in crashes involving distracted driving in 2011. The nonprofit Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reports all but five states have adopted bans, and an academic study has concluded that texting creates a crash risk 23 times greater than driving while not distracted.

It appeared Florida would shed the dubious distinction of being among those five states and adopt legislation this year that allowed the state to punish drivers who put us all at risk by engaging in this reckless behavior.

Incredibly, that’s now in doubt. And petty politics may be to blame. A Senate proposal representing the mildest of texting bans appeared headed toward law until its sponsor angered some lawmakers over an unrelated bill. Payback may mean no texting ban this year.

We hope there is enough time before the session ends Friday for lawmakers to put politics aside and adopt the Senate’s ban, which is tame compared to other states.

It would make texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement can only charge an offender stopped for another offense. It would not ban texting while stopped at traffic lights. First-time offenders would face a $30 fine and court costs.

A last-second amendment attached to the bill in the House this week put its future in doubt. It would ban law enforcement from using phone records to prove a texting case unless the accident involved death or injury. The amendment would make it difficult for officers to win a texting case on many of the citations issued. It should be rejected.

But there may not be enough time or support to pass a ban now that politics has entered the arena.

That’s a shame because the law concerns public safety. Responsible drivers should not have to wait another year.

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