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Starting September 1st in Texas, it will be illegal to talk on a cell phone in an active school zone unless: the car is stopped, a hands-free device is used, or in an emergency.

As we welcome a new school year in Alachua County, I wonder why Florida, or any state, wouldn’t also want to enact such a ban to protect our school children?

As an accident lawyer, it makes complete sense to me: small children + big cars + chatting/texting drivers = a very dangerous mix! We are required to reduce our speed from 35mph to 15 mph in most school zones for a reason – to be safe and focus drivers’ attention on the road because there are children around.

It is illogical then, if the purpose of a school zone is to create a zone of safety around a school, that the legislature would permit drivers to engage in dangerous behavior that:

  • decreases a person’s reaction time three times more that of a drunk driver (texting) and
  • is the equivalent to driving drunk (chatting on a cell phone).

The key to safe driving is to focus attention on the road and to keep both hands on the wheel. There is no question about the dangers cell phones bring to the road. Nearly nine months ago, the National Safety Council called for a nationwide ban on cell phone use while driving. The studies are clear and the data is alarming. Yet it remains legal in Florida, despite reports from the Governor’s Highway Safety Council showing that 80% of crashes are due to driver inattention – with cell phones being the #1 culprit.

(As a reminder, when it comes to the proven inattention to the road that cell phones cause, research has shown that hand-held or hands-free makes no difference as it is a brain distraction, not a hand problem.)

I applaud the efforts of the Texas Legislature to protect their school children. I urge every Floridian to do the following:

  1. Follow Texas’s lead and get off the cell in school zones (even hands-free); we don’t have to wait until it becomes the law.
  2. Contact your state Representative or Senator and urge them to follow the lead that has been set by Texas.

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