For just $30.00 in Florida, a driver is able to engage in texting and driving, a potentially life threatening activity to not only themselves but to all others on the road. However, throwing a piece of trash out of the car while driving has a minimum fine of $100.00.
Most are surprised to see littering fines surpass texting fines in Florida, but there are far more shocking state comparisons. According to a texting and driving study, a total of 35 states have a higher minimum fine for littering than they do for distracted driving. Of these, four states don’t even enforce a state-wide ban against texting and driving, which include: Arizona, Missouri, Montana and Texas.
Looking at a few other shocking state statistics, Maryland drivers are subject to a minimum fine of $75.00 for texting on their phones while driving but they could face a littering penalty starting at $1,500.00. Similarly, a Massachusetts texting and driving fine equates to $100.00 while drivers face littering fines of $5,500.00. Other states that see a surprising difference between fines include: Illinois, Oregon and New Hampshire.
Would Increasing Fines Yield Safer Roads?
Our community continues to look for ways to improve road safety. Advocacy projects are implemented and safety training courses are offered with the goal of eliminating risky behaviors on the road. However, we still see startling crash data released each year that often makes us question what else we can do. Would increasing texting and driving fines instill the law into drivers and, in turn, decrease car accidents?
Taking a look at accident data in various states could indicate whether increasing fines for texting and driving would create safer roads. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety collected statewide data from 2014 to compare fatal crashes, taking into account state population. In Florida, there were 2,336 fatal crashes that resulted in 2,494 deaths in the state. Factoring in the total Florida population, the death rate per 100,000 people equated to 12.5. Nationally, the average death rate came in at 10.2, putting Florida over the national average. If we look at states that pose higher distracted driving fines, we see interesting results. In New Jersey there were 523 fatal crashes, totaling 556 deaths in 2014, and the death rate was 6.2. This represents half of Florida’s death rate. While New Jersey’s texting and driving fines may not be the highest in the country, the state poses a minimum fine of $200 for any driver caught texting and driving, which is almost six times the amount levied in Florida.
While it is difficult to name a single solution that can solve the growing epidemic of texting and driving, it seems more are willing to follow the law when steep fines are in effect. In the end, the driver is responsible for taking a stand and making a difference to improve driver behavior.
Katie Bassett is a digital marketing strategist at Safer America, a safety advocacy organization, who primarily focuses on youth safety and development projects.