Florida is one of only 5 states that has no legislation prohibiting texting while driving. But that may be changing soon: After 4 years of unsuccessful attempts, Florida’s Senate recently passed a law prohibiting the practice. Florida’s House of Representatives will take up the bill soon.

If Florida indeed passes the law, it will be helping the AAA meet its goal of having a texting-while-driving ban in every state by the end of 2013. The popularity of texting has grown quickly over the past four years, and so have the dangers. Florida Senator Nancy Detert says, “We lose about 11 teenagers a day (nationally) thanks to texting while driving.” A Virginia Tech Transportation Institute study shows that the risk of crashing is 23 times greater when a driver is texting. Several studies warn that driving while texting is more dangerous than drunk driving.

“Distracted driving,” a term that includes both cell-phone conversations and texting, is an increasingly serious problem. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that more than 3,000 people are killed and nearly half a million are injured each year in distraction-related crashes. According to the AAA, young drivers (26%) are far more likely than senior drivers (1%) to text while behind the wheel.

Opponents of anti-texting legislation argue that the laws are ineffective and violate civil liberties. It seems, however, that safety concerns are likely to trump issues about personal freedom. Research studies show that more than 80% of Americans support texting bans—and that the legislation is making driving safer. California says that its 2009 ban has reduced the amount of texting while driving, and other states are reporting similar results.

“We are pleased to see that the frequency of texting while driving dropped after the texting ban went into effect in California,” said AAA President and CEO Robert Darbelnet. “We hope that this new data will help influence lawmakers in other states to take action and pass similar legislation banning texting while driving.” The AAA is hoping Florida will soon be one of them.

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Jean Reynolds, Ph.D. is Professor Emeritus of English at Polk State College, where she taught report writing and communication skills in the criminal justice program. She is the author of seven books, including Police Talk (Pearson), co-written with the late Mary Mariani. Visit her website at www.YourPoliceWrite.com for free report writing resources. Go to www.Amazon.com for a free preview of her book The Criminal Justice Report Writing Guide for Officers. Dr. Reynolds is the police report writing expert for Law Enforcement Today.