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Smart Phones…Dumb Drivers? The Federal Gov’t May Step In.

Florida drivers currently have no legal requirement to leave their cell phones off while driving, but that may soon change.

This week the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommended all states ban cell phone use behind the wheel, becoming the first federal agency to call for an outright prohibition on telephone conversations while driving.

The push is the result of more than 3,000 car accident deaths last year alone due to cell phone distractions.

Case in point…

  • Naples, Florida 2008 - A cyclist was struck and killed by a driver who was sending a text when at the time of the crash.
  • Tampa, Florida 2009 - A teen driver, texting with her friends, slammed into the back of a police cruiser, sending everyone to the hospital.
  • Kentucky 2010 - A semi-truck with a 53-foot-long trailer collided with a 15-passenger van, killing 11 people. The truck’s driver was on his cell phone at the time.

These are just a few examples of what lawmakers are now trying to prevent.

In an historic move, the city of Parkland, Florida (Broward County) banned text messaging while driving. If caught, drivers there face a $100 fine. Now, the Federal government is seeing the merit of such legislation and Florida lawmakers may follow suit.

The NTSB does not have legislative power, but as the nation’s leading federal safety advocate, it has influence. The agency has indicated it will provide political cover if Congress or the White House administration wants to take on the powerful cell phone industry lobby. Ultimately, the lawmaking would be up to the States but Congress could opt to use control of federal money to influence the states, as it has on such issues as seat belts and legal drinking age.

At least six distracted driving bills have been filed for Florida’s 2012 legislative session. The Legislature returns Jan. 12. Florida Governor Scott, a conservative Republican, does not appear supportive of a handheld cell phone ban. In 2011, he vetoed a bill (HB 689) that would have required the DMV to provide education on the dangers of electronic distracted driving.

The Law Offices of Robert Rubenstein has more than 25 years experience with Florida auto, truck and motorcycle accidents. If you’ve been injured in an accident or you simply want more information on your legal accident rights, call our legal team at 1-800-FL-Legal (800-355-3425) at Rubenstein Law.