Florida Lawmakers Wary of National Ban Aimed at Reducing Risks of Car Accidents in Boca Raton and Elsewhere

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is calling on local and state lawmakers to enact a strict ban on portable electronic devices for drivers. Florida is one of the few states left in the country that has yet to enact any laws regulating the use of cell phones or text messaging devices, and it doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon without a federal ban. But Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said there are already a number of distractions that can’t be regulated by lawmakers and there is no sense in adding another unnecessary layer of prohibitive behavior. Distraction-related car accidents in Boca Raton and elsewhere are going to happen whether or not there are laws governing the use of electronic distractions, according to The Palm Beach Post News.

“I’ve heard evidence that eating fast food, or men fixing their ties, or women fixing their makeup, or talking to screaming kids in the back of the van — as I’ve done from time to time — is just as distracting, perhaps more so, than sending someone a text message,” said Cannon.

Our Boca Raton car accident attorneys understand that the laws of various states used to govern distracting behavior have fallen short of their goal. In a majority of states across the U.S., drivers have the green light for talking on cell phones but are still prohibited from texting at the wheel. Not only are enforcement efforts struggling, but when they’re carried out it’s difficult for officers to determine if a driver was using the phone to make a call or typing to send a text. A federal ban against these distracting habits could help to get the nation on the same page, to help increase enforcement efforts and to make roads safer for everyone. But much of Florida isn’t on board with the suggestion.

The NTSB met earlier this month to discuss the dangers of distraction-related accidents in the U.S. Of particular note was the discussion of an accident in Gray Summit, Missouri, in 2010 in which two people died and more than three dozen were injured. The driver blamed for this accident failed to abide by Missouri’s laws because he was texting and making phone calls just before the accident.

According to Cannon, the Republican-dominated and conservative Legislature in Florida may be hesitant to agree to the “government-regulating private behavior.”

But the chairwoman of the National Transportation Safety Board thinks otherwise.

“Needless lives are lost on our highways, and for what? Convenience? Death isn’t convenient,” said Deborah Hersman. “So we can stay more connected? A fatal accident severs that connection.”

Nearly every year since 2002 Florida has seen a number of proposals to regulate this behavior, especially among novice drivers. These bills have been filed by both parties, but none has been able to pass through.

“Making citizens safer is one of the most important roles of government,” said Janet Froetscher, president of the National Safety Council. “We are hopeful that legislators across the nation will recognize the value of NTSB investigations and recommendations and take the necessary actions proposed … to make our roadways safer for everyone.”

Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, says that the state is backpedaling when it comes to taking action to make our roads safer. Just to get seat belts to be mandatory in our state, the feds had to step in and threaten to take away millions in transportation money. Only then were seat belts made mandatory.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) recently announced that distracted driving has doubled over the last tear. Distraction-related accidents killed almost 3,100 people on our roads in 2010. A federal ban may be the only hope in making roads safer in Florida.