It is very common for operators of vehicles in South Florida to use their cellular telephones while driving. Wireless telephones usage while driving is a very dangerous practice as it draws the driver's attention away from traffic, road conditions and vehicle operation. This is especially true of texting while driving. I have seen some drivers recklessly use both of their hands in an attempt to send a text message while attempting to maneuver their steering wheel with their knees. This negligent and reckless practice is a direct cause of numerous automobile accidents each and every day.
Cell Phone Accident Statistics
Researcher Joshua Cohen of the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis reported on CBS News that they "calculate that around 2,600 people die each year as a result of this use of the technology." Another 330,000 are believed injured.
In response to the increasing number of automobile accidents caused by the negligent usage of hand held wireless telephones while driving, several state legislatures throughout the Nation have banned both the use wireless phones and the practice of texting while driving. An example of such a ban can be found in the State of California.
California Cell Phone Ban
Under California law, "a person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using a wireless telephone unless that telephone is specifically designed and configured to allow hands-free listening and talking, and is used in that manner while driving." Cal. Veh. Code §23123(a). Under California Law, a violation of said prohibition "is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense." Cal. Veh. Code §23123(b).
Four exceptions are included in the California hand held wireless law prohibition. This prohibition does not apply to the following situations:
- "A person using a wireless telephone for emergency purposes, including, but not limited to, an emergency call to a law enforcement agency, health care provider, fire department, or other emergency services agency or entity." Cal. Veh. Code §23123(c).
- "An emergency services professional using a wireless telephone while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties." Cal. Veh. Code §23123(d).
- "A person driving a schoolbus or transit vehicle that is subject to Section 23125." Cal. Veh. Code §23123(e).
- "A person while driving a motor vehicle on private property." Cal. Veh. Code §23123(f).
Although California law permits the use of a hands-free wireless telephone system to talk while driving, the more dangerous practice of texting while driving was entirely prohibited under California law until 2012. In the year 2012, the California Legislature, following improvements in wireless telephone technology, has permitted the use of texting with a hands-free generated system as well.
California Vehicle Code Section 23123.5. specifically provides as follows:
(a) A person shall not drive a motor vehicle while using an electronic wireless communications device to write, send, or read a text-based communication, unless the electronic wireless communications device is specifically designed and configured to allow voiceoperated and hands-free operation to dictate, send, or listen to a text-based communication, and it is used in that manner while driving.
(b) As used in this section "write, send, or read a text-based communication" means using an electronic wireless communications device to manually communicate with any person using a text-based communication, including, but not limited to, communications referred to as a text message, instant message, or electronic mail.
(c) For purposes of this section, a person shall not be deemed to be writing, reading, or sending a text-based communication if the person reads, selects, or enters a telephone number or name in an electronic wireless communications device for the purpose of making or receiving a telephone call or if a person otherwise activates or deactivates a feature or function on an electronic wireless communications device.
(d) A violation of this section is an infraction punishable by a base fine of twenty dollars ($20) for a first offense and fifty dollars ($50) for each subsequent offense.
(e) This section does not apply to an emergency services professional using an electronic wireless communications device while operating an authorized emergency vehicle, as defined in Section 165, in the course and scope of his or her duties.
Most states which have a ban on the usage of cellular phones while driving follow the California example in that the ban only applies to hand-held wireless devices. Hands-free wireless devices are usually permitted in these states as well.
Why Not Have a Similar Cell Phone Ban in Florida?
Unfortunately, the Florida Legislature has not followed these states and drivers are still permitted to recklessly use their cellular phones and pose great threats of danger on our roads. Might we suggest that all Florida citizens contact their legislatures and let them know that Floridian's want a ban on the use of hand held wireless telephones while driving to ensure safer roads in our State as well.