Fines for distracted driving do not reflect the danger
“Don’t do the crime, if you can’t do the time.” That’s a line from an old TV show from the 70s that anyone who is texting and driving these days probably never viewed. There’s a law against texting and driving, and many will tell you it lacks “teeth” because it is a secondary offense in Florida. That means drivers need to be caught doing something else wrong before they can be ticketed for multi-tasking with their cell phones behind the wheel. The fine for this dangerous behavior is just $30. Does that fit the “crime”?
Some perspective on traffic fines: If you drive with an expired drivers’ license, the fine is $250. I felt very sorry for the student on campus last week, as he was getting a ticket for weaving his scooter around a restricted parking gate. Fine: $170. If you fish without a license, the fine is $100. (With or without a fishing license, the fish do die.)
As of December 2015, 46 states and the District of Columbia banned the practice of texting with a cellphone while driving. Utah has the toughest law in the nation, passed in May 2009. Anyone convicted of causing an accident that injures or kills someone while texting behind the wheel face up to 15 years in prison. A crash in Utah caused by a multitasking driver is not considered an accident, but rather an inherently reckless act, like drunk driving.
Florida has been considering toughening up the texting-while-driving law for years, and another bill is in play this legislative session. There is no denying distracted driving is dangerous. In 2015, 214 fatalities in Florida were attributed to distracted drivers. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has a chart of distracted driving crashes by county. You’ll notice distracted drivers caused nearly 46,000 crashes. Those were accidents that didn’t need to happen.
Put the phone down. Just drive.