Letters to the Editor

HB 1: The end of texting while driving in Florida

As we have evolved in technology, we have also increased our risk of danger when driving an automobile. With the advent of the smart phone, our lives have changed drastically in the past 10 years.

About the only thing we don’t seem to be able to do with this new state-of-the-art stuff is to be beamed up by Scotty.

New devices to make our lives easier and communication swifter are wonderful, but using them while we are driving a car has become a safety hazard. In particular, I am talking about sending text messages. There are some studies that show that banning this habit with real enforcement can decrease fatalities by 11 percent. Real enforcement is making texting and driving at the same time a primary offense. With this type of law, police can ticket drivers whom they see texting. Currently, Florida has a texting statute, but it is secondary, and police cannot cite a driver unless they are stopped for another moving violation. Forty-four states today have some type of ban on texting while driving, and in 39 of those states, texting is a primary offense.

Certain things do not mix, and texting while driving, especially in Florida, is one of them. There is a study that claims that Florida is the sixth-worst state to drive in, and the category that propels the Sunshine State is distracted and careless driving. In another study, an Allstate survey of the cities with the worst drivers lists Tampa, Hialeah and Miami in the top five of all cities in the United States. Miami is No. 1, and the only two cities not in Florida that make the top five are Baltimore and Philadelphia.

As part of the effort to improve the safety for all Floridians driving on our roads and highways, I have introduced HB 1 in the Florida House of Representatives that will allow law-enforcement officers to issue citations to drivers who are texting on their mobile phones while driving with increased penalties for doing so in a school zone. Sen. Maria Sachs is introducing the same bill in the Florida Senate.

In 2013, when the texting-while-driving bill was signed by the governor as a secondary offense, some of the leading support groups included AAA, AT&T, Allstate and numerous law-enforcement agencies. These same groups have signaled support this time around, as well, for a stronger law.

Richard Stark, Florida House of Representatives, District 104, Weston