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Politics

Florida in the Red for Highway Safety Laws

January 21, 2015 - 6:00pm

Floridas highways lead straight to the danger zone, according to a new report on automobile safety laws released Thursday.

The 2015 Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws from the Advocates for Highway & Auto Safety, a group of insurance organizations and consumer groups, placed Florida squarely in the red when it comes to state legislation to keep drivers safer on the roads.

Each of the 50 states is given a color code for its ranking on 15 basic traffic safety laws: green (good), yellow (caution) and red (danger). States in the red category are those falling dangerously behind in adopting 15 state laws the advocates believe are critical to prevent automobile injuries and save lives.

Some of the laws include texting while driving, open containers, seat belts and child passenger safety.

Florida was one of nine states to receive a red rating. The report found the Sunshine State only had six of the 15 basic traffic laws enacted. Florida was missing four of the seven teen driving provisions, some of which included making 16 the minimum age for a learner's permit as well as cellphone restrictions.

In 2013, Florida had more than 2,400 traffic fatalities. Annually, motor vehicle crashes cost the state more than $12 billion.

Texting while driving is a big problem across the country. Two-thirds of drivers admitted to reading a text or email while driving, according to a 2012 survey conducted by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety. The economic cost resulting from crashes involving adistracted driver totaled $46 billion in 2010.

To date, 39 states as well as Washington, D.C., have banned text messaging for all drivers.

In 2013, Florida enacted a texting while driving restriction, but picking up the phone to send that tweet is only a secondary offense in the Sunshine State, which means drivers must be stopped for a separate traffic violation before receiving a ticket for texting and driving. As such, the law is rarely used.

An all-out restriction of texting while driving would have helped Florida get a better mark on the report.

The advocates say the report is a wake-up call to all states that need to improve their traffic safety laws, and they call upon governors and state legislators to renew, reinvigorate and re-energize efforts to pass traffic safety laws..

This is a clear call to action that we can and must be doing more to stop these preventable and costly tragedies, reads a release from the advocates.

The Florida Department of Transportation contends it's supported legislation over the years to help improve driver safety in Florida.

The Florida Department of Transportation plans to spend approximately $27 million in Behavioral and Law Enforcement grants to traffic safety partners throughout the state in the current fiscal year," said FDOT chief safety officer Lora Hollingsworth. "These include programs like Click It or Ticket, Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over, Look Twice Save A Life, Put It Down Dont Text and Drive, and Alert Today Alive Tomorrow. Safety Partners focus on the four es of traffic safety:engineering,education,enforcement, andemergency services. The engineering e is a large component of ongoing road design and construction that the Florida Department of Transportation delivers throughout the state.

View the full report here.


Reach Allison Nielsen at allison@sunshinestatenews.com

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