Texting while driving has become a huge safety hazard in our society. For many, it is no big deal to text or read a text while driving; however, you are in fact putting yourself and others in a dangerous positon when you do. The National Safety Council estimated that texting while driving causes 1,600,000 accidents per year and nearly 25% all car accidents are caused by distracted drivers. The issue has become so pertinent that states, including Florida, have imposed bans on texting while driving to ensure driver safety.
Fortunately, news of a device that might help law enforcement agencies deter drivers from using their phones while driving has surfaced. A Virgina company called Malcom McIntyre of ComSonics, is currently in the making of a radar gun that can detect through radio frequencies if someone is texting, talking or browsing the web on their wireless communication device. Much like how radar guns are used to detect speed, this gun will let officers know if you are paying more attention to your phone than you are to the road. The company has announced that the device is “close to production”, but there are still some matters than need to be dealt with first before it can be marketed. One of the biggest issues it’s facing has to do with privacy. The makers of the radar-gunlike device are letting the public know that the device is not able to decrypt the information that is being transmitted by the driver. It is also waiting for approval by several agencies, including law enforcement. This device could have the potential to help officers do a better job and keep drivers and pedestrians safe. According to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, texting while driving makes you 23 times more likely to crash, so it’s never a bad idea to just ignore your phone for a while when you are on the road.
Florida made the ban against texting and driving official on October 1st of last year. Texting while driving in Florida is considered a secondary offense, which means that the driver must commit a separate offense (speeding, ran stop sign while texting) before the officer has the authority to stop the person and issue a ticket. According to Florida Statute 316.305 – any person who violates the law is committing a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation, however, if the person commits a second or subsequent violation within 5 years after the first conviction, he/she is committing a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation. The penalties for the first infraction might include fines (starting from $30), court costs, and additional fees. For a second a subsequent offense the penalties are harsher.
Although it would be pertinent to not use your phone at all while you are driving, there are some exemptions to this law. For instance, drivers are allowed to use their wireless device for GPS and navigation apps, music, pick up a call, traffic or weather reports, reporting a crime, among others.
There is much controversy over whether this law is at all effective. Some agree that it should be considered a primary offense with much harsher fines than just $30. In the meantime, educating teenagers and adults on the dangers of texting and driving should continue to be one of the biggest efforts to ensure public safety.