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You're hurtling down the interstate at 70 mph, or 103 feet per second. Sending or receiving that irresistible text averages more than four seconds, which means you've traveled farther than the length of a football field -- blind.
Texting or talking on a cellphone while driving accounts for more than 100,000 crashes a year nationwide, according to federal statistics. In 2011 there were 3,331 fatalities nationally involving distracted drivers.
"We're going to put a stop to it," state Sen. Maria Sachs vowed Wednesday. "There's going to be no more distracted driving in the state of Florida."
The Delray Beach Democrat announced her sponsorship of a bill in the upcoming Legislature that would outlaw texting or cellphone conversations while driving.
Broward Sheriff Scott Israel, who along with the Florida Sheriff's Association supports the bill, joined Sachs at a demonstration of the effects of distracted driving at Broward College's Institute of Public Safety in Davie.
"It's relevant, it's important, and as sure as we're standing here it's going to save lives," the sheriff said. "Like alcohol and driving, texting and driving doesn't mix."
Sachs' bill would make it a moving violation for drivers to use anything but hands-free devices while behind the wheel. A first offense would result in a $100 fine, with higher penalties for second and third offenses. Driver's license points would not be subtracted.
Sachs said she expects the bill to be well-received by both Democrats and Republicans at this spring's legislative session.
"I don't know anybody who could oppose this, to stop the slaughter that's going on our highways," she said.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, texting while driving makes crashes 23 times more likely. Florida is one of just six states that don't have laws banning texting while driving, the administration said.
In Wednesday's demonstration, Deputy Ian Hunt, driving a navy blue Chevrolet Suburban at 35 mph, attempted to change lanes while texting. He swerved dramatically, knocked down a half dozen traffic cones, and nearly flipped over.
Wayne Boulier, the safety institute's driving instructor, said when drivers text, they're traveling blind and miss precious seconds in reaction time should they need to brake or maneuver out of danger.
"You're losing time, it's time you can't recapture," he said. "What usually happens is you overcompensate, over-steer or under-steer."
Volunteers at the college's driving simulator consistently left the road or crashed when trying to follow instructions while texting.
Sachs said text-free driving is a concept that will, in time, gain traction among drivers. "It's going to take a while to educate people," she said.
Car manufacturers support the concept and are increasingly producing vehicles designed for hands-free communication, Sachs said.
"The whole idea is keep your hands on the wheel," she said.
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