The annual 60-day session of our legislators is already in full swing. As a member of the Florida House of Representatives I have been supporting legislation for the past several years to improve safety on Florida’s roads.
In 2013 the Legislature for the first time passed a law making texting while driving a ticket-eligible offense. Unfortunately, the law is weak and difficult for the police to enforce because it is a secondary offense, which means that a ticket can be written only if the infraction is discovered during a traffic stop for anther violation such as speeding or running a red light.
Close to 40 states enforce texting as a primary offense. Opposition to strengthening the law in Florida is based on freedom of drivers from government intrusion and mandates. Most of the drivers I have spoken with have expressed a greater desire for safety from distracted drivers, of which texting is the most dangerous distraction. Under Florida law, motorists stopped at a light can text, and they can text as well to dial 911. There are new apps for cell phones available to shut down a phone while the car is in motion, but it is not enforceable.
The bill to strengthen texting by making it a primary offense this year isn’t expected to be heard by any committee. Several other bills have been proposed, and the one I have put before the Legislature does have a glimmer of hope. This addresses schoolchildren specifically in that it doubles the fines for texting in an active school zone. Children are among our most vulnerable citizens, so that is why I have proposed this legislation.
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Many articles and editorials have already published the statistics that make enforcement of distracted driving while texting important. I ask the public and ask that citizens write to their state legislators — both in the House and Senate — to help improve road safety.
Richard Stark, Florida State Representative, District 104, Weston