It was a good day for Nancy Detert, R-Venice, whose texting bill died in the Senate last year. This year's version passed its third committee vote on Thursday, with just one more to go before a full Senate hearing.
But it's a mild ban. Texting drivers could only be ticketed if they had already been stopped for some other offense, the first offense fine is only $30…and it doesn't apply to the kind of roadway texting that Detert does herself.
The senator she says when she has to send a message from behind the wheel, she fiddles with her Android phone, brings up a speech-to-text app and dictates. Unlike manual typing, she claims, it is not distracting.
"My eyes are still on the road, as opposed to the original texting which was the Blackberry, where you had to type with two thumbs, and there was no way you were looking at the road," Detert said.
Several studies suggest many Americans text while driving, although big majorities think it should be illegal. But two years ago, the Highway Loss Data Institute found that traffic safety did not improve in states that banned texting while driving.
HLDI president Adrian Lund reported in 2010 that car crashes actually increased in three of the four states that were studied, possibly because drivers' effort to avoid detection made texting even more hazardous.