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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Despite texting law, distracted driving crashes keep increasing

Nearly three years after Florida enacted a ban on texting while driving, car crashes caused by distracted driving are increasing at a steady pace.

Preliminary data provided by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows that there were nearly 46,000 distracted driving accidents in 2015. Here's a year-to-year breakdown:

2012: 33,511

2013: 39,036

2014: 42,221

2015: 45,740

DHSMV spokeswoman Beth Frady notes that the numbers reflect all kinds of distractions, including talking on a cell phone, texting, paying attention to other passengers, watching an event outside the vehicle, eating, having an unsecured pet in the vehicle, personal grooming, adjusting the radio or climate controls and daydreaming. The numbers should be viewed in the context of Florida as a state with a growing population and more motorists on the road every year.

Critics say Florida's texting while driving law is too weak because it's a secondary offense, which means police have to stop a motorist for another reason, and a first offense brings a $30 fine. In the 2016 session, the Legislature did not take up bills to make it a primary offense.

Where do most distracted driving crashes occur? The answer is Orlando. Miami-Dade usually leads all 67 counties in accident-related statistics, largely because of its size as the state's most populous county. But Orange County, one of the world's biggest tourist destinations, had 5,506 distracted driving crashes last year, and more than half of them involved injuries. The county-by-county reports on distracted driving crashes are here.

[Last modified: Thursday, May 19, 2016 2:00pm]


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