Several years ago, Broward residents were reading regularly about the dangers of talking on a cell phone while driving. Fort Lauderdale ticket and DUI attorneys and researchers who studied the subject saw a relationship between the increase in accidents and cell phone usage while driving. In response to widespread concern about road safety, cell phone manufacturers rolled out a slew of products intended to make driving while talking a safer endeavor. Bluetooth devices, which wirelessly connect cell phones to headsets and other external devices, allow a user to talk without holding the phone’s handset. The notion was that the cause of accidents was more related to the driver having full use of only one hand. Nonetheless, further research demonstrated that headset usage does not dramatically improve driving safety. The problem lies in the driver’s distraction when talking on a cell phone much more than holding the phone. Several states have enacted legislation to make talking on a cell phone while driving an offense for which a driver can receive a traffic ticket, although Florida has not taken such steps at this point in time. Nonetheless, road safety and cell phone usage remains a concern for the state legislature to evaluate carefully, despite the high level of public awareness of the dangers. The Florida state legislature considered and rejected a bill to outlaw texting while driving during the last session.
More recently, Broward residents have become concerned about another cell phone-related distraction: text messaging. Once the exclusive domain of tech-savvy teens, text messaging has become mainstream in a relatively short period of time. Texting caught on significantly faster in European nations like Great Britain, but newer, low-cost plans have made it a more widely accessible in the United States in the past few years.
South Florida drivers from Broward to Fort Lauderdale have embraced texting – but that may include texting while driving. A recent British study found that texting while operating a motor vehicle is more dangerous than driving under the influence of marijuana or alcohol. Drivers are extremely distracted and, since eighty percent of accidents are already caused by distracted drivers, the texting often results in serious accidents. The study found that drivers with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 – the level at which intoxication is presumed for the purposes of a DUI arrest – have their reaction reduced by about 12 percent. Marijuana reduced reaction time by 21 percent. Surprisingly, completely sober drivers who engaged in text messaging showed the most severe reduction in reaction time at 35 percent, a delay nearly three times greater than that caused by alcohol. Interestingly, the study evaluated drivers who wrote or read text messages while operating a motor vehicle – indicating that even reading without pecking out responses may also pose a serious problem. Is the distraction caused by texting really so severe that it trumps DUI? This study indicates that the answer is yes.
Two of the most well-publicized cases involving texting include a 2007 New York car accident that killed five high school girls and the head-on collision of two trains in California in September. In both cases, the operator of the vehicle at fault appeared to have been texting in the moments leading up to the crash. The legislatures of sixteen states, including Louisiana, Minnesota, and Alaska have either enacted or considered total bans on texting while driving. If the findings of the British study are correct, drivers should think hard about putting away their phones.
Fort Lauderdale DUI attorney William R. Moore is a former prosecutor and public defender. If you have been charged with DUI in south Florida, contact William Moore Criminal Defense, P.A., which has an experienced Fort Lauderdale DUI lawyer with offices in Fort Lauderdale-Dade, Broward, and Fort Lauderdale Counties.
This article should be used for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice.