Anti-texting emoticon sculpture appears in Miami

Local communication company places dramatic sculpture on the streets of Miami to discourage residents from texting whilst driving.

The last emoticon - don't text and driveThe laws on using mobile telephones whilst driving in the American state of Florida fall way behind many of the other states in the country. The inconsistent patchwork of traffic laws across the country has resulted in some states, such as Florida, being much more lenient towards people practicing the dangerous act of sending and receiving text messages behind the wheel.

Although the law states that it is illegal to type characters into a keyboard while driving, it is largely unenforceable because it is considered as a “secondary” offence, which means that police only have the power to prosecute for texting whilst driving if the driver is also breaking a law which is considered a primary offence, such as driving through a red traffic light or speeding.

Many consider this to be unsuitable, including local telecommunication provider, Sprint. To reinforce its message that driving whilst distracted is dangerous, the company has erected its “Last Emoji” sculpture at Brickell Avenue, a major thoroughfare running through downtown Miami.

The powerful imagery of the sculpture consists of an “emoticon” style yellow smiley formed from the scrap metal of a badly crashed car and symbolises the possible consequences of texting and driving.

Commenting on the new sculpture, Sprint’s Claudio Hidalgo said, “By placing a sculpture that incorporates a powerful and significant message using the new language of mobile such as an emoji, we hope to remind our community that when using their phones while driving they are not only risking their own lives but the lives of others. No text is that urgent.”

Despite the laissez-faire attitude of law makers to texting whilst driving, Florida is no stranger to tragedy resulting from distracted driving. During last year alone, there were 200 fatalities and 39,000 injuries in the state that were caused by distracted drivers, according to the Florida higway authority. Across the whole of the USA, nearly 3000 people are killed each year through distracted driving.

Sprint is actively discouraging its customers from using mobile devices whilst driving and has created its “Drive First” app, which locks the phone when the car reaches 10mph (16kph). As well as locking the phone, it reduces temptation by silencing alerts and automatically directing incoming calls to voicemail. The app also sends an automatic reply to incoming messages, informing the sender that the driver is currently on the road and driving without distraction.

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