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Distracted driving is still treated as a secondary offense by the State of Florida. That means law enforcement can’t pull a driver over for texting unless there is another driving infraction. However, every statistic on distracted driving strongly supports making it a primary offense.

If either SB 144 intro­duced by Senator Rene Garcia and/or HB 47 intro­duced by Rep. Emily Slosberg are passed, texting while driving will become a primary offense. It’s a fact: distracted drivers injure and kill. And they are as dangerous as drunk drivers. Building On Past Experi­ences, Bipar­tisan Duo Work Together On Driving-Related Bills  

Evidence Proves the Danger

Statistics show that something must be done. In 2015 there were more than 45,000 crashes in Florida caused by distracted driving. It is time for the Florida legis­lature to do something to make people think before driving, to help them make the decision to avoid using the phone while driving. A recent inves­ti­gation by a Tampa news station asks why the legis­lature is hesitant to change Florida’s current laws.

It’s Personal

Dori Slosberg FoundationFor Rep. Emily Slosberg, it’s personal. In 1996, she was in a car accident with her twin sister Dori. She survived, but Dori didn’t. Their Dad, Irving Slosberg, dedicated much of his career in the legis­lature to focusing on highway safety. He founded the Dori Slosberg Foundation devoted to highway safety in honor of his daughter Dori who passed away in a 1996 car crash. Emily Slosberg is following her father’s example by continuing to introduce legis­lation to make Florida’s roads safer. Sen. Garcia was in an accident after texting while driving and realizes the serious need for changed.

HB 47 by Rep. Slosberg revises penalties for viola­tions of Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law. It includes enhanced penalties for viola­tions committed in a school zone or school crossing and removes the requirement that specified provi­sions be enforced as secondary by law enforcement agency.

The other measure, HB 69 by Rep. Slosberg and its identical Senate companion SB 144 sponsored by Sen. Garcia is for General Use of Wireless Commu­ni­ca­tions Devices while Driving. It provides for primary enforcement of Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law for drivers age 18 or younger and requires fines to be deposited into the Emergency Medical Services Trust Fund.

What You Can Do To Help

Some legis­lators are hesitant to pass this important legis­lation because of civil liberty concerns. The civil liberties issue was argued about the seat belt law. It took well over a decade from the time seat belts became mandatory for Florida to make the failure to wear a seat belt a primary offense. It took just as many years to ban open containers of alcoholic beverages while driving and to lower the limit of alcohol necessary to be charged with driving under the influence. The legis­lature is going through the same process with texting. It takes many years of educating lawmakers, electing leaders with courage and too many deaths before safety legis­lation is passed.

We all need to end distracted driving and to contact our legis­lators and urge them to support this important legis­lation. Find Your Elected Officials in Florida

Along with contacting your legis­lator, we, ourselves, can set the example and choose not to use the cell phone when driving; it’ll still be there when we get to our desti­nation – safely — and so will the list of missed calls. We can always safely pull off the road if an emergency means  the call just can’t wait to take.  Designate a passenger to handle any calls or use the phone for direc­tions.  Also, let’s refuse to be passive passengers; call any distracted driving activity to the driver’s attention.

Distracted Driving Awareness CampaignContact Wayne Hogan for a compli­mentary Distracted Driving safety presen­tation for your club, organi­zation or at your job. We can all be a part of the solution to end the danger of distracted driving.

Tougher texting-and-driving ban sails through Senate committee

Jacksonville Times Union Editorial Crackdown needed for dangerous distracted drivers