MIAMI (CBSMiami) – As Governor Rick Scott signed Florida’s texting and driving ban into law, applause filled the auditorium at Alonzo and Tracy Mourning Senior High School.
“Just the fact that it’s going to be illegal to text and drive, that’s going to stop our teenagers, stop citizens from texting and driving,” said Governor Scott.
“When people text and drive, they’re 23 times more likely to have an accident,” noted Representative Doug Holder who co-sponsored the bill.
Some people said the new law isn’t strong enough.
Representative Irv Slosberg of Boca Raton, who lost his daughter in a car crash said this isn’t the law he hoped would be passed.
“Everybody had another amendment to put on it. We added a $30 fine, a secondary offense, you can text at stoplights, you can text at traffic jams,” said Representative Slosberg.
The law which goes into effect in October makes texting and driving a secondary offense, which means you have to be pulled over for something else.
Attorney Yehuda Bruck handles traffic tickets in court and predicts the law will be tough to enforce and prosecute.
Bruck said, “It would just be very hard for the officer to testify with a straight face that person was texting while driving because of the many possibilities including turning off your ringer turning off your phone.”
Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Joe Sanchez disagrees saying it’s not hard to enforce.
“It’s a secondary violation. When you’re texting you’re going to fail to keep a single lane, you’re going to speed, you’re going to run a stop sign,” Trooper Sanchez said. “That’s the primary law. If you’re texting the officer will just write you another ticket for $30.”
Most teens we talked to say that’s enough to make them put down the phone.
Student Eric Landau, “I’m not gonna lie I’ve been guilty a few times.” “Now that it’s illegal, I won’t be doing that anymore.”
Representative Slosberg says the fight isn’t over. “We’ll start off next year, we’ll figure out how we are going to enhance this bill.
For now, the Governor is calling the law a good first step.
“Laws sometimes start incrementally, it’s a right way to start,” Scott said.
Slosberg concurred, “something’s better than nothing.”
Drivers who text take their eyes off the road for almost five seconds, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, which regulates the trucking industry. At 55 mph, a driver can cross the equivalent of a football field while not looking.
There were 256,443 reported crashes in Florida in 2012. In 4,841 of those crashes, a driver had been texting or otherwise using an “electronic communication device” while driving, according to a preliminary report from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.