We all do it. It’s one of the new horrors of modern life. Texting while driving has become as clear and present of a danger as drunk driving. Unfortunately, data on just how deadly texting drivers have become isn’t easy to come by due to the difficulties of proving when and if drivers were texting – timestamped records aren’t always left behind. Still, the problem has become serious enough that 43 states now consider texting while driving to be a primary offense, meaning officers can cite drivers for texting even when other infractions aren’t present. In Florida and a few other states, however, texting while driving is considered a secondary offense, meaning it can only be cited in the presence of other offenses. Now, the Florida state legislature could change that with a new law up for vote in 2018 which could see many more drivers pulled over under the pretense of texting while driving.
While the AP notes that many Florida law enforcement officers are hopeful the bill will pass, the new law is not without its critics. Many fear that officers will use texting while driving as an excuse to pull over drivers for shakedowns, particularly minorities. Meanwhile, research on the efficacy of texting bans is scarce, and very few studies have actually found significant links between decreased accident rates and anti-texting laws. One University of Alabama at Birmingham study found just a 3% decrease in accident rates following Alabama’s passage of an anti-texting law in 2011.
The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates that texting while driving was responsible for around 3,500 deaths in 2015, nearly one third as drunk driving kills each year. Shouldn’t texting while driving be considered just as serious as drunk driving? Or at least one third as serious? I wonder what the telecommunications lobby has to say about these laws. But what does it really matter? We’ll all be riding around in self-driving cars soon. Our children will look back and laugh at the days when we had to steer cars ourselves like some sort of lowly cavemen. But they’ll only laugh through memes, as they will by then have lost the ability to vocalize due to reliance on brain-to-brain texting. Gotta break some eggs to make that self-driving omelette.