If approved, Florida Senate bill 416 will make texting, email and instant messaging while driving a secondary offense, punishable by a non-moving violation with a $30 fine for first-time offenders. Subsequent offenses within five years will be cause for a $60 fine and three points will be added to their driver’s license.

Despite a recent report by the National Transportation Safety Board saying distracted driving was the number one danger on American roadways today and calling for every state to enact a complete ban on the use of handheld devices by drivers, Florida and 14 other states have no such ban.

Some lawmakers have said that the passing of a ban on handheld devices was a duty for local municipalities and that a statewide ban was overkill. Florida is trying to bridge the gap by passing a statewide ban on the use of some handheld devices. The bill as it exists right now would allow the use of navigational devices on wireless devices and allow texting while the vehicle is stopped at traffic signals.

When it comes to texting and driving just about everyone is guilty of it at one point or another. Smartphones have become nearly ubiquitous in modern society and their use has become almost second nature to many. We carry them with us at all times and the idea that we might be unreachable seems as alien as using a landline. This does nothing to diminish the dangers of distracted driving, however. A 2009 study in Car and Driver Magazine showed that someone who is distracted needs an almost 70 additional feet to stop than someone who is paying close attention to the road ahead of them.

When it comes to defensive driving, there simply is no substitute for paying attention. Florida lawmakers seem to finally recognize this and are seeking to force drivers to keep their eyes on the road (where they belong) instead of on their smartphone.

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