Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Of Texting and Internet Taxing

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Of Texting and Internet Taxing

Article excerpt

Local legislators team up to sponsor two important billsState Sen. Nancy Detert -- a Republican whose district includes parts of Sarasota, Manatee and Charlotte counties -- has teamed with two local GOP representatives to sponsor sensible bills that warrant the Legislature's support.One of the proposals seeks to prevent -- or, at least, deter -- drivers from sending text messages.Senate Bill 416 was endorsed last week by the second committee to consider the legislation. Its companion -- House Bill 299, filed by Rep. Ray Pilon of Sarasota -- has yet to be considered in committee.Memo to the House of Representatives, which in the past has stifled debate over the bill: Enough stonewalling; take up the legislation and pass it.In the slow lane on safetyTexting-while-driving bans are hardly on the cutting edge of state legislation. Florida is one of only 15 states that don't ban texting while driving.Furthermore, the National Transportation Safety Board recommended last month that states ban drivers' use of all "portable electronic devices" -- those used for texting, web-surfing, instant messaging and telephone conversations.The National Safety Council estimates that 28 percent of all crashes in the United States are caused by drivers using cellphones or texting.The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported that 3,092 traffic deaths in the United States last year were attributed to "distraction-affected crashes."Among the most frequent distractions: cellphone and smartphone use by drivers. The NHTSA believes that the numbers of distracted-driving deaths and accidents are higher than reported.Deaths linked to texting, emailing, messaging and telephoning represented 9.4 percent of the total 32,885 traffic fatalities nationwide in 2010, according to the NHTSA. That percentage is especially significant now, because the overall traffic-fatality rate in 2010 was the lowest since 1949, and deaths in crashes involving drunk drivers dropped by 4.9 percent, to 10,228.Thirty-five states ban text messaging while driving, 30 states ban cellphone use by "novice" drivers and 10 prohibit all uses of hand-held phones while driving, according to the NTSB. Even in those states, compliance and enforcement are inadequate.If passed, SB 416 and HB 299 would prohibit drivers of any moving vehicle in Florida from texting, emailing or sending instant messages. The bill would make typing or retrieving electronic communications a "secondary offense," meaning that the driver would be cited for a noncriminal traffic violation -- but only if he or she had been pulled over for another offense.The bill would help law enforcement officers obtain the phone records of drivers involved in crashes. However, it wouldn't allow police to stop and cite drivers who are clearly operating their mobile devices while on the road. …

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