Sixteen-year-old Webster Jean is driving around on city streets, left hand on the wheel, right hand holding a smartphone. As he reads and responds to his text messages, he repeatedly veers across the double-yellow lines.
And then -- wham.
"I crashed," says Jean with a chuckle.
Jean tee-bones another car – but he’s fine. The teenager is just taking a spin in a texting-while-driving simulator brought to Park Vista High School by wireless carrier AT&T.
Steve Augello lives in Spring Hill Florida, just outside of Tampa. Like a lot of dads, he always made his 17-year-old daughter, Alessandra, check-in with him when she was out. Augello also had a rule.
“You weren’t allowed to have that cell phone out while you’re driving,” Augello remembers telling Alessandra. “I even tested her a few times I called her when she was driving and it always went right through to the recorder.”
Florida is one of only 11 states that doesn't prohibit texting and driving. But drivers whose texting leads to an accident and death would be guilty of homicide under a bill filed this week in the Senate and expected to soon show up in the House.
After several failed bills and a decade’s worth of debate, texting and driving remains legal in Florida – and the most recently proposed bill wouldn’t change that. But drivers could be charged with vehicular homicide in the case of an accident.
As I lean my motorcycle into the curve that takes me onto I-95, I roll the throttle to accelerate up to highway speeds. Up ahead I see a car going well below the minimum speed of 45 mph, with the left turn signal on but swerving to the right. I give this big unknown a wide berth, and as I pass, I see the person gabbing it up on a cell phone.