It's a no-brainer, really.

Texting while driving is dangerous and should be prohibited in Florida, as it is in 39 other states.

That's the overwhelming sentiment of Pinellas and Hillsborough County adults, according to a Tampa Bay Times/Bay News 9/AM 820 News exclusive poll.

Even though driving-while-texting bills died in the State Legislature the past two years, 89 percent of those polled said they would like to see the act made illegal.

That's 18 points higher than the 71 percent of Florida voters who said they supported a ban last year in a Times/Bay News 9/Miami Herald poll.

Steve, a poll respondent from Hillsborough County in the 55 to 64 age group, said there are a couple of reasons why he'd like to see a bill passed:

"I just glanced down at my phone real quickly one time and rear-ended a guy on the freeway," he said. "That proved something to me right there. And then I've seen kids texting while they were driving. They can't drive when they aren't texting, so I think it's needed."

Terri, a Hillsborough County resident in the 45 to 54 age group, agreed.

"Driving in Tampa is difficult enough, especially with the traffic and everything else," she said. "Doing anything to distract yourself is ridiculous.

"It’s bad enough with people having a cell phone to their ears and slowing down so they can concentrate on their conversation. If you’re trying to text, you’re typing, and I don’t see how you can look at the screen and drive at the same time."

Florida is one of only six states that doesn't have at least some restrictions on texting while driving (see map). Besides the 39 states that prohibit it, five more target only novice drivers. Three states found it necessary to specifically ban school bus drivers from typing on their phones.

But Florida could soon get in step with most of the rest of the country.

State Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has filed an anti-texting while driving bill (SB 52) for the third consecutive year. A companion (HB 13) has been filed in the house by Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota.

"If you are texting while driving, you are 23 times more likely to have an accident," Holder said in a news story posted on his website. "I think the timing is right. I think we are going to get something passed."

Critics point to studies that show that traffic safety has not improved in states with ban or say a law against texting would be an infringement on personal liberty that would be hard to enforce.

But there's growing support in the Legislature for an argument articulated by Detert to the Times: "Your freedom stops when you've crossed over into my lane."

The Detert-Holder bill was pitched as a compromise and isn't particularly punitive. Law enforcement officers could add on a $30 texting fine for a driver who is stopped for another violation. The ban would not apply to drivers reading a navigational device or traffic safety information.

A more restrictive bill in the Senate called the "Florida Ban on Communicating While Driving Law," which stands a lesser chance of passing would prohibit texting and limit voice communications to hand-free devices. Traffic stops could be made when officers see drivers texting or talking on their phones.

Another bill and its companion, (SB 152 and HB 61), ban drivers under age 18 from using all electronic communications devices.

If the matter were put to a vote locally, it would pass easily. Eight-seven percent of Hillsborough respondents and 90 percent of Pinellas respondents said they favor a ban, even though 15 and 10 percent of the same residents, respectively, admitted they text at least sometime.

Only 7 percent of those polled said they oppose a ban, according to the poll data, but two people who were down for "oppose" votes said their answers were misunderstood and that what they really oppose is texting while driving.

"I know when I'm driving, I don't do that because something can happen in the blink of an eye," said one of those respondents, Susan, a Pinellas County resident in the 55 to 64 age group.

Peter, who is 65-plus and lives in Pinellas County, said, he, too, was misunderstood and favors a ban.

"I was in a couple of accidents myself when someone was driving and texting at the same time," he said. "There should be a fine for anyone that gets caught texting."


Q1: How often, if ever, do you send or read text messages while driving?

5% 5% 7% 1% 6% 4% 5%
10% 5% 11% 2% 9% 6% 8%
24% 21% 31% 9% 23% 22% 23%
Or, never
61% 69% 52% 87% 61% 68% 65%
Not sure
0% 0% 0% 1% 0% 0% 0%
Resused 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%

Q2: A law has been proposed to ban Florida drivers from texting while operating a motor vehicle. Would you favor or oppose this proposed ban?

  County Age Gender

Hillsborough Pinellas 18-54 55+ Male Female Total
87% 90% 88% 89% 84% 93% 89%
9% 6% 9% 4% 10% 5% 7%
Not sure
4% 4% 2% 7% 6% 3% 4%
0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0% 0%


The telephone survey of 521 Hillsborough and Pinellas County residents was conducted Dec. 5-13 for the Tampa Bay Times, Bay News 9 and AM 820 News.

The surveys were administered by Braun Research, a national polling firm based in Princeton, N.J.

The margin of error was plus or minus (4.3) percentage points overall.