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To Fill a Perceived Legislative Void, County Judges Take Texting Law into Their Own Hands

One of the most deadly activities on our roads is texting while operating a moving vehicle, a widespread practice that was recently banned in Florida. The ban came in response to mountains of statistics and incontrovertible evidence. Indeed, one study demonstrated that texting drivers require an additional 66 feet to hit the brakes than drunk drivers do. Another study demonstrated that texting drivers are 23 times more likely to crash while texting compared to those driving with no distractions. Estimates from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that in 2012 approximately 3,000 people were killed in crashes involving texting drivers, while 386,000 were injured.

Facts like these would be far less troubling if the statistics didn’t also demonstrate the massive number of drivers who still cannot resist the urge to fire off a text or two from behind the wheel.

A day late and more than a few dollars short?

In response to what safety advocates have characterized as a crisis on our roads, 45 states have banned text messaging for all drivers. While Florida was one of the last states to pass a ban, the law here now prohibits texting-while-driving as a secondary offense. This means officers cannot ticket drivers solely for texting-while-driving without alleging any another primary traffic violations. The law has come under fire from constituencies that feel that the law provides a weak deterrent to those determined to text, with its $30 to $60 fines for infractions that could have deadly results.

Tough Florida judges make texting drivers pay

Among those who have questioned whether our legislature has adequately responded to the dangers posed by texting while driving are a handful of judges in Palm Beach County and Highlands County. These judges are permitting plaintiffs to sue for punitive damages when a driver’s texting plays a role in an accident. Since the goal of punitive damages is actually to punish the culpable party, as opposed to simply compensate victims, some see the move as a judicial solution to Florida’s weak texting ban. In this way, negligent texters are being hit where it may hurt the most: their wallets.

It’s in the best interests of those injured in distracted driving collisions to reach out to an accident attorney, who can seek every avenue to hold a texting driver responsible for his or her negligent actions. Contact our office or call us at (954)-213-6914 today for a consultation.

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