Michael Aragones, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering, said his friend crashed into the back of the car in front of him because he was distracted by a text message he was reading.
“Of course he didn’t tell the officer that, but he told me that, and he said that was the last time he’ll ever text while driving again,” Aragones said.
Distracted driving is an issue that the state of Florida is
aiming to address, with new legislation signed into law last week that will prohibit texting while driving.
Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 52 on Tuesday. The bill, also known as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law,” will take effect on Oct. 1, 2013, and will make it illegal for Florida drivers to type into any wireless communications device, including cellphones and tablets, while operating a motor vehicle.
In 2011, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 387,000 people were injured and 3,331 were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving a distracted driver.
As a father and grandfather, Scott said in a statement on Tuesday that texting and driving is a concern of his every time a family member gets in a vehicle.
“The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the deadliest days on the road for teenagers,” Scott said. “We must do everything we can at the state level to keep our teenagers and everyone on our road safe. I cannot think of a better time to officially sign this bill into law.”
Though law enforcement officials will not have the authority to pull over individuals they believe are texting, drivers who are pulled over and found to be texting while driving will be charged with a nonmoving violation and a fine of $30. Additional offenses will result in a fine of up to $60 each. The driver would also pay for court costs.
Six points will be applied to the license of drivers who are found texting while driving in a school zone or when texting while driving results in a crash. If a driver gets in a crash and police believe texting while driving is the cause, the driver’s phone records may be used as evidence in court.
Some students said they believe the law doesn’t do enough to keep drivers from texting while behind the wheel.
Rocken Roll, a recent graduate, said she thinks the new law is too lenient on such a dangerous issue.
“I think the new law is a step in the right direction, but it’s almost like a half answer,” Roll said. “They need to take a firmer stand on the issue and say, ‘This is bad and we are going to pull you over if we see you texting,’ or just don’t make a law at all.”
Aragones said he believes it won’t be that simple to get out of the ticket.
“If the cop is at all savvy he’s going to ask you to unlock your phone and let him look at it,” Aragones said. “If you just told him you’ve been driving for 10 minutes and you have a text from a minute ago, obviously you were texting while you were driving.”
Alexandria Allen, a junior majoring in criminology, said she recently read a study done by the U.S. Department of Transportation that said 4.6 seconds of driving while texting at 55 mph is equivalent to driving the length of a football field blindfolded.
“That’s scary, and I’m glad that they have finally done something about this problem,” Allen said. “Just imagine how dangerous it is to just not even see a football field’s worth of road when you’re driving.”
John Hewitt, a senior majoring in health science, said he supports the ban because he thinks it will be successful in punishing drivers for texting while driving.
“When I get cut off or there is a bad driver on the road near me, I usually see them with a cellphone in their hand or over their ear,” Hewitt said. “I try my best to minimize my texting while driving and I try not to send my friends texts if I know they are driving so they won’t be tempted.”