It is all too often that the Florida news will report on yet another serious auto accident caused by a distracted teenage driver. Distractions can range from changing the radio station, talking with passengers, eating, text-messaging or using a cell phone. Being distracted for only a few seconds can make the difference of life or death.

If recent legislation is passed, Florida teens will no longer be able to use their cell phones while driving. Senate Transportation Chairman Carey Baker and Rep. John Legg have introduced legislation that would make Florida the 18th state to ban cell phones for teenage drivers. Based on the 2007 statistics posted by CTIA-The Wireless Association, there were a reported number of 255.4 million wireless subscribers.

Legislators are concerned about the alarming rate of Florida teen drivers who text-message while operating their motor vehicles. A recent study by the Allstate Foundation, showed that 13 percent of teenagers admitted to text-messaging and 56 percent stated they make and answer phone calls while driving. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, automobile crashes are the leading cause of death for U.S. teenagers. In 2006, 36 percent of all teenage deaths were caused by traffic collisions. Teenage drivers account for 12.6 percent of all drivers who are involved in fatal crashes.

The Florida legislation would allow law enforcement officers to issue non-criminal traffic citations to drivers under the age of 18 who are caught using an electronic wireless communication device, such as a cell phone, laptop or hand-held, while driving. The use of headsets would also not be allowed.

The proposed legislation only allows a traffic citation to be written if the teen driver was stopped for another offense, which is similar to how Florida’s seat belt law is enforced. If the driver is found guilty of using an electronic communication device, one point will go on his or her license.

Five years ago, legislation banning cell phone use for all Florida drivers failed to pass. Florida legislators believed that such a restriction would be too much government interference. Florida is among the eight states that do not have a cell phone ban and prohibit localities from banning cell phone usage while driving.

Critics of the teen cell phone ban believe that the Florida government may be over-reaching. However, many others strongly feel that the ban is necessary to protect teen drivers and reduce the number of serious Florida auto accidents. It will be interesting to see if the cell phone ban is passed and the effect it will have on the number of Florida automobile collisions involving teenagers.

Contact the Law Office of David M. Benenfeld for answers to your questions about texting and driving and the proposed cell phone ban for teens.