Is this the year Florida will ban texting, driving?
Updated On: Jan 25 2013 01:42:19 AM EST
Dozens of bills have been introduced in the Florida Legislature since 2002 aimed restricting motorist cellphone use or texting, but none has made it to the governor's desk.
One lawmaker believes 2013 could be different.
State Sen Nancy Detert, a Venice Republican, says her bill -- introduced for the fourth time -- bans drivers from sending or receiving messages while operating a vehicle.
Detert says the bill has passed the Senate twice but was never heard in the House.
"But this year is going to be our year. We have a good House sponsor. We have a good Speaker of the House, good Senate president, so the no-texting-while-driving bill, I hope, will pass this year," Detert said.
Under Detert's bill, drivers could still read navigational devices or weather alerts.
AAA Auto Club South says a survey it commissioned shows 87 percent of motorists support laws prohibiting texting or emailing while driving.
"Texting while driving, distracted driving as a whole counts for about 18 percent of fatalities in the nation," said AAA's David Cawton. "That's about f5,000 deaths a year that can be basically avoided just by putting your phone down and keeping your eyes on the road."
The same survey shows that 69 percent of Americans acknowledge talking on their cellphones while driving within the past 30 days, while 24 percent say they have sent texts or emails.
Text messaging is already banned for all drivers in 39 states and the District of Columbia.
Under the proposed Florida Senate bill, texting while driving would be punishable by a $30 fine.
Channel 4 crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said it's a law that is long overdue.
"There are some people who think they are pros at it," said Jefferson. "They can drive with one hand and hold the phone up toward the steering wheel and text with one finger and they have it under control, but they really don't."
Most drivers Channel 4 spoke with Thursday night admitted to texting and driving, but agreed that a change is needed.
"Great idea, yeah, great idea. Because I've heard it's more dangerous, it's killing more people than drinking and driving," said one driver.
Jefferson suggested drivers put themselves back in control while they driving until the law is officially on the books.
"Put the cell phone in the back seat of your car. Just place it in the back seat or the glove box where you won't be tempted," said Jefferson.
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