As of last October 1, texting while driving in Florida is illegal. But almost one year after the ban went into effect, it's clear police across the state -- and in Miami-Dade County -- are rarely enforcing the law.
Only 352 texting while driving citations have been issued in the county in 2013, a spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) tells Riptide. In that same time period, over 50,000 non-criminal moving violations were issued in Miami-Dade, according to FHP statistics.
Because texting while driving is a secondary offense in Florida, a citation can be issued only when the driver is already seen committing another offense, like running a red light or driving with expired tags.
Last year, as the law was about to come into effect, Boca Raton state representative Irving Slosberg told WLRN that the texting ban bill had been significantly weakened as it was passing through the legislative process, from a primary to secondary offense, because of politics.
"You can text in traffic jams, you can text at red lights, it's only $30 (for a ticket) and the police can't even confiscate (cell phone) records unless you kill or seriously injure someone," the legislator said. "So it's politics and unfortunately there's no lobbyist for public safety."
In 2012, the most recent year for which statistics are available, more than 3,000 people died in the U.S. in distraction-affected crashes, according to the U.S. government's distracted driving website.
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