State Politics

Ban on texting and driving could be passed

ST. PETERSBURG — On Jan. 3, 2008, Russell Hurd waited for his daughter at Walt Disney World in Orlando. They were about to plan her dream theme-park wedding.

But Heather Hurd was killed on her way to the meeting. She was a passenger in her fiance’s car, which was stopped at a light when a trucker who was texting on his phone slammed into the vehicle and eight others.

Heather and another woman were killed instantly, and six others were injured.

“We went from planning a wedding to planning a funeral,” Hurd said. “I don’t want another family to feel what I feel.”

The trucker pleaded no contest to a careless driving citation and has since died.

his year, some Florida lawmakers hope to ban texting and driving, something 19 other states have already done.

More than a dozen bills are pending in the Florida House and Senate; some call for a ban on texting, others, a ban on cell phone use entirely. Hurd and others say that despite similar bills’ lack of passage in previous years, the issue of texting while driving is too big to ignore in 2010.

“This topic has gotten so much interest as of late, that it’s more likely than not that something will get passed,” said Marianne Trussell, the chief safety officer of the Florida Department of Transportation.

It’s unclear exactly how many crashes or fatalities have occurred in Florida because of texting; law enforcement doesn’t collect the data during investigations unless a driver voluntarily admits to being distracted.

The National Safety Council released a report in January that claimed 28 percent of all traffic crashes — that’s about 1.6 million crashes a year — are caused by drivers using cell phones or texting.