In My Opinion

Fabiola Santiago: Plea to stop the needless texting

 

fsantiago@MiamiHerald.com

I don’t text.

Yet, people I barely know — and people I do, and should, therefore, know better — text me frivolously.

They could call. They could email. They could reach me via Facebook or Twitter, but no, they feel it’s their God-given right to place their agenda urgently in front of me via my private cell phone.

I don’t answer.

I delete the texts without viewing them.

But nothing stops a person hell-bent on texting.

On Tuesday, when it became illegal to text and drive in Florida, one of these clueless darlings texted a long message along with four pictures.

I was driving back to my home office from physical therapy for a trigger finger. The ding! of the text needlessly worried me. Could it be a loved one who couldn’t talk at work but really needed me?

At the stop light, I confirmed it wasn’t important.

Once home, I opened the text for this column, but otherwise, I would have deleted it as usual.

Need I say more?

Yes.

It shouldn’t have taken the Florida Legislature almost five years to make the dangerous practice of texting and driving illegal. It has been illegal in some 40 states for quite a while — and for years, in places that also ban talking on the cell phone while driving, one of them Washington D.C., where speedy communication can be a matter of national security.

So, why not in Florida?

Because the same type of cracked lawmakers that scripted the federal government shutdown — those with unrelenting opposition to reasonable measures that save lives — kept any kind of bill, no matter how watered down, from passing, and often from even getting a fair hearing.

Kudos go to Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, for her persistence in pushing for the ban and re-introducing the bill year after year — and to Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, who announced Tuesday that she will introduce another bill this session to strengthen the law.

As it is now, police can’t stop drivers solely for texting and driving. They need to witness a traffic violation such as reckless driving, running a stop sign or a light. Only then can they add driving while texting as a second violation, an additional $30 fine for a first offense, double for the second.

Sach’s bill would make texting and driving a primary offense — and that makes more sense. The point is prevention, to stop someone from say, slamming into someone else on the highway, blowing a stop sign or light and killing or maiming someone.

Once you’ve caused death or damage, a $30 fine is innocuous. But if drivers know police can stop them for being spotted in that head-down position, or for driving with one hand and holding their phone and texting with the other, they’ll think twice about doing it.

Without adequate enforcement, irrepressible texters like my friend will never stop.

Why don’t I text at all?

Because the constant ding! of a cell phone is the enemy of concentration — and I care about the health of my brain, the focus I put into my work, and the right of others to have the same peace.

When I need to reach a human being, I call, email or message via social media. Isn’t that enough connection?

I used to say “I don’t text” politely, the words delivered demure and apologetic for my lack of enthusiasm for getting hip with the texting world, but since that doesn’t seem to get my message across, let me try something else.

Visualize the painting The Scream by Edvard Munch and hear me:

I DON’T TEXT.

Read more Fabiola Santiago stories from the Miami Herald

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