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Joshua Ferraro: Punitive damages compelling reason not to text, drive

  • Joshua Ferraro is an attorney with Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith, based in Stuart, West Palm Beach and Boca Raton.
  • TCPalm

The Centers for Disease Control report that distracted driving is a contributing factor in more than 386,000 injuries and more than 3,000 deaths every year. To put that into perspective, you could fill Dolphins Stadium more than five times with the number of people injured from distracted driving every year. To put a finer point on it, in the last 10 years; this country has lost five times as many husbands and wives, sons and daughters to distracted driving than to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, despite the enormity of the loss created by distracted driving, so far the Florida legislative response has been fairly muted. On Oct. 1, the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law went into effect. It which prohibits use of wireless devices to communicate through emailing, texting or instant messaging while driving.

On its face, this legislation goes a long way toward combating the problem of distracted driving. However, the new law contains two broad loopholes that all but eliminate its ability to deter drivers from using their wireless devices.

First, because a violation under the law is designated as a secondary offense, law enforcement cannot stop a driver for texting unless another independent violation is observed. In a study conducted with regard to the deterrent effect of seat belt laws, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined compliance is 11 percent lower where a secondary offense designation is given. Additional studies found primary offense designation coupled with adequate fines (Floridas texting fine is just $30)

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