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Study Shows Distracted Driving Laws Might Not Be Nearly As Effective

MIAMI (CBSMiami) - More than 3,100 people were killed in accidents involving distracted driving in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

New York State Police officers said goodbye to one of their own in April.

Trooper Joseph Gallagher was putting flares on the side of the road when a car hit him. Investigators say the driver was texting at the time.

Joel Feldman knows the pain of that loss. His daughter Casey was killed by a distracted driver in 2009.

"The world is certainly not so well off after her death. She would have made a big, big difference," he said.

Most states have some kind of ban against texting or calling while driving.

Twenty-one states have gone a step further, enacting laws against all handheld cell phone use, including calling, texting, and using apps.

Doctor Motao Zhu with Nationwide Children's Hospital is the lead author of a new study that found comprehensive hands-free laws have prevented about 140 driver deaths and 13,900 driver injuries each year.

But laws that only ban texting or calling are not nearly as effective.

Researchers recommend all states adopt rules that prevent drivers from handling a phone, especially teenagers.

In Florida, The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles partnered with law enforcement partners and other agencies to educate Floridians about the importance of avoiding distracted driving with the Put It Down: Focus on Driving campaign.

The law requires drivers to put their phones down and focus on driving.

Motorists can be stopped and cited for texting and driving. The second part of the law, section 316.306, Florida Statutes, went into effect on October 1, 2019, where a motorist can be pulled over and issued a warning for using wireless communications devices in a handheld manner in school and work zone.

"They have the highest crash risk, so they shouldn't use any cell phone at all while driving," according to Dr. Zhu.

"I don't accept that people won't give up phones. What I say is, we haven't reached them the right way," Feldman said.

He now speaks to drivers of all ages, and even young children, about the dangers of being distracted behind the wheel.

"We're teaching little kids how to speak up. 'Mommy, Daddy, I love you, but I don't feel safe when you look at your phone while driving me.'"

Feldman says laws are helpful, but it's up to individuals to prioritize safety and put down the phone.

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