There’s no real argument here in Florida that the new Texting While Driving law does not have much bite – it’s not thought by many to be much of a deterrent to distracted driving dangers – the current law only fines $30.00 for the first violation. Unfortunately for now, Florida Statute 316.305 is the law of the State of Florida.
(For details, check out our earlier post, “New Florida Law Bans Texting While Driving – But Only a $30 Fine If You’re Caught: Feel Safer from Distracted Driver Car Crashes, South Florida?”)
Meanwhile, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that a third (31%) of U.S. drivers admitted they had read or sent text messages or email messages while driving at least once within the 30 days before they were surveyed.
Florida Legislator Announces He Will Still Fight For Felony Crimes In Texting While Driving Accidents Where the Crash Results in a Serious Injury or Death
Yesterday, Florida State Senator Darren Soto announced that he’s not giving up on his fight and has proposed another law that will do more to halt texting while driving. Last Spring, he was trying to get a bill passed that would make texting while driving a crime that brought vehicular manslaughter criminal charges against anyone who caused the death of someone in a car accident because of texting while driving.
That bill didn’t succeed in becoming law, but Soto’s not done. The State Senator is proposing a new law that would up the punishment for someone who either seriously injures or kills someone in a car, SUV or truck crash caused because the distracted driver was texting at the time of the accident.
Specifically, Senator Soto’s next bill, if it becomes Florida law, will make the driver guilty of a 2nd degree felony (severe injury of someone in the crash) or a 3rd degree felony (wrongful death of someone in the accident). These are first degree offenses which bring with them, upon conviction, serious jail time. (Right now, texting while driving is a secondary offense — no jail time even if the distracted driving causes someone to die in a car crash.)
Darren Soto is persistent and the announcement that he is not giving up the fight by proposing a new texting while driving statute proves that fact: seemingly, Soto has a greater likelihood of success this time around now that the current (weak) statute (316.305) is on the books and citizens are beginning to learn about it.
Will Florida get tougher distracted driving laws? Maybe.
It’s a big debate with many groups lining up against severe punishments for drivers who text while driving.
Fortunately, what hasn’t changed, though, for victims of Florida texting while driving car crashes are Florida personal injury and wrongful death claims; civil claims pursued against drivers (and others) in the pursuit of justice for the distracted driving victim and his / her family.
Note: If the name Darren Soto sounds familiar to you, it should. Soto also fought hard in Tallahassee for those Florida home owners who were wronged in the foreclosure fraud housing crisis mess by, among other things, pushing for passage of a law that would prevent banks from trying to collect the deficiency left on home mortgages in many short sale scenarios. For more, see our blog About Florida Law and its post, “Florida Short Sales Target of Federal and State Legislation: New Proposed Laws to Help Florida Home Owners Trying to Short Sell Their Home.”