Station Scene: Texting and driving now illegal

Community By Cristina Armand, Special to the Laker Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Texting and driving is now illegal in Florida. 

Distracted driving has happened to all of us. It can range from reading a text message while stopped at a red light, to trying to eat lunch on the go between meetings. Today, more than ever, there are many ways one can get distracted while on the road.

We live in a world where we are expected to always be available and get back to people immediately. Many people cannot disconnect while behind the wheel and it just takes a second of distraction to cause an accident. 

Starting October 1, texting and driving is illegal in the state of Florida. The “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law” prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while using a wireless communication device to manually type or enter multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters. 

It also includes sending and reading data on cellular phones which can include text messages, e-mails, and instant messaging. The intent of this ban is to improve roadway safety for drivers, vehicle passengers, bicyclists, and pedestrians. It will also help to prevent crashes caused by distracted driving and will reduce injuries, deaths, property damage, health insurance rates, and automobile insurance rates.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 10 percent of injury crashes in 2011 involved reports of distracted driving. Drivers under the age of 20 represented the greatest number of distracted drivers, and 11 percent of drivers under 20 involved in fatal crashes were reported to have been distracted while driving. 

Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving. It makes a driver take their hands off the wheel, eyes off of the road, and their mind off of driving. 

If you must use your phone, be mindful of the following: 

• When possible, pull off the road and stop in a safe place, like a parking lot, before using your phone. 

• Avoid complicated and emotional conversation while driving. Even if you are using a hands free device, your mind will be on the conversation and not on the road. 

• Advise the person you are talking to that you are driving and that you will call them back later, especially if you are driving in heavy traffic or in inclement weather. 

• Never write a note while driving. Have the person you are talking to text the information to you. You can also use the speech-to-text application on your Smartphone to take brief messages. 

• Steer clear of looking up a phone number while driving. 

Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes off of the road for an average of 4.6 seconds. If you are driving an average of 55 mph, it would equal the length of driving a football field blindly. 

It seems like every day we hear of more and more incidents of people injured or even killed in car accidents due to distracted driving. 

The next time you reach for your phone while driving remember that “One Text or Call Could Wreck It All.”