Florida Highway Patrol Sgt. Mark Wysocky says it is hard to separate texting drivers from drunken drivers. Both weave. They speed up and slow down for no obvious reason and get too close to other cars. They endanger their lives and others. Even though he could see a driver texting, he couldn’t ticket her because she wasn’t breaking any other traffic laws. Florida, with some of the nation’s deadliest roads, is one of the last states not to ban texting while driving. The legislature soon will consider a bill that would; studies conflict over whether such bans have any effect, the Associated Press reports. Florida law says texting by noncommercial drivers is a secondary offense. Police must see another violation like speeding or an illegal lane change before they cite a driver for texting. The bill would make texting a primary offense.
Forty-three states make texting while driving a primary offense. Three besides Florida list it as a secondary offense – Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota. There is no state law against texting in Arizona, Montana and, for noncommercial drivers 22 and older, in Missouri. The federal government estimates that in 2015, accidents involving texting and other distracted driving killed almost 3,500 people nationally – more than nine per day – and injured almost 400,000. The state says Florida car crashes killed almost 2,700 this year, but the number killed in texting-related accidents is unknown. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says that states enacting texting bans experience no decrease in accidents even though surveillance shows the number of drivers texting drops substantially. Opponents of a texting ban generally fall into two camps. Libertarians say say current law is sufficient if texting leads to swerving, tailgating or other dangers. Minorities fear texting bans lead to racial profiling.