Is Florida behind the times when it comes to texting laws, or is Congress to blame for the lack of a federal law when it comes to texting while driving in the state? Regardless, texting while driving is an overwhelming concern and the cause of many distracted driving accidents in West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, and elsewhere is South Florida.
Over the last four years, lawmakers have had multiple bills introduced to ban texting in Florida, and after each session the bills have been denied. Understanding the process may bring it into perspective a little better.
Hundreds of bills are filed each year by state lawmakers but only about 10% make it through to committees, get voted on in both chambers, and signed into law by the governor. Typically, the bills that make it through have one or many of the following factors contributed:
-Affects public safety or financial crises.
-A strong lobby who petition for the bill.
-Emotional pull behind the bill.
-Powerful political leaders standing strong and in support of the bill.
Bills need to make it past the initial step, which is a committee headed by someone appointed by the House Speaker and Senate president. Dozens of bills introduced to regulate texting and cell phone use while driving have been introduced from 2007-2010 but none have made it past the first step.
Lobbyist don’t get paid to push a bill like texting, so therefore, don’t. Texting bans need a strong lobby behind them in order to get attention. There is some hope as AAA and solid waste companies are finding it to be a safety issue for the employees who ride on the back of trucks. Much attention gets placed on issues like the environment, health care, and insurance because they all have to do with financial affairs. The telecommunications industry has had a strong voice from petitioners in the past, and continues to rule the roosts, so to speak, when it comes to killing bills.
Due to the economic crisis we are in, texting bills often get swept under the rug because they have no emotional pull. Issues like state deficits or property taxes rising take precedent over distracted driving bills despite recent studies showing they are a cause of 25% of total traffic accidents.
Once again, texting-while-driving bills have been assigned to three committees in the House and Senate for the upcoming legislative session. To date, no hearings have been scheduled. Most believe this could be the year, but as in previous years, that point is up for debate.
If you have been injured in a distracted driving accident in West Palm Beach, Margate, Miami or Fort Lauderdale, contact Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez to discuss your rights. For a free and confidential appointment call 1-800-529-2368.