Florida could outlaw all forms of distracted driving

(Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) – Florida could outlaw drivers from putting on makeup, holding a cellphone, reading or performing other distracting activities under a bill unanimously approved by a Senate committee.

The Senate Innovation, Industry and Technology Committee approved the measure after heart-wrenching testimony from parents whose children that have been killed in accidents caused by districted drivers.

Republican Sen. Wilton Simpson said distracted driving has become an epidemic in Florida, and not just involving cars hitting other cars.

“Bike riding, hiking, jogging – all of those things – we’ve had record numbers of deaths in this state by distracted driving,” Simpson said.

Right now, it is illegal to text and drive in Florida, but drivers can only be ticketed if they are first pulled over for another reason. Simpson’s bill would make distracted driving a primary offense, meaning law enforcement wouldn’t need another reason to ticket a driver. If enacted, Florida would ease into the law by creating a three-month period where law enforcement would only give warnings. After Dec. 1, police would be able to issue tickets.

Hands-free cellphone use would be allowed, and drivers would be able to check their phones as long as their cars aren’t moving, such as at a stop light or while idling in a parking lot.

Law enforcement officers would also have to record the race and ethnicity of ticketed drivers and an annual report would have to be given to the governor, House speaker and Senate president. Democratic Sen. Randolph Bracy asked for that provision to be included due to concerns that a distracted driving ban could be used for racial profiling.

Several parents who lost children in accidents urged the committee to approve the bill. Debbie Wanninkhof said her 25-year-old son, Patrick, died in an accident caused by a driver using a cellphone.

“We need to wake up to the danger of wireless communication device addicts,” she said. “Cellphone use … is an addiction for many. You hear the stimulus of a ping and you immediately grab the phone and you respond instantly. It happens over and over again, and just like a drug addiction, it can be deadly.”

The Senate bill has been unanimously approved in its first two of four committee stops. A similar House bill hasn’t been heard in committee yet, but House sponsor Rep. Jackie Toledo said House Speaker Jose Oliva has promised it will get a hearing.

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Car Crashes

40 people died in St. Pete car crashes in 2018, the deadliest year on record.

When you examine car crashes, you must understand one thing, they just don’t happen. Driving skills are becoming less important as we head to more and more ridiculous safety features. If you want to decrease traffic crashes, take the millions invested in driverless cars and put that money into creating better drivers.

Driving is a skill that is learned and must be practiced constantly behind the wheel. The issue regarding driver education is that if your taught to drive by a fool-now we have 2 fools on the road.

Driving must be taught by the great drivers of the world, which by the way is only 25% of the driving population. They didn’t become great by accident. They were taught by someone with great driving skills and they put that education into practice. When you’re driving, you must be aware of everything that is always going on around you, not just occasionally, but all the time. If I had to pick one thing that I could instill in new drivers, it would be to focus on the big picture of driving.

What are drivers doing that are behind you, alongside you and coming head on towards you? That’s what will make the difference in that decision that will save your life. Remember cars that are approaching you at 60 mph, are traveling at almost 90 feet per second. You are traveling at 90 feet per second, so you are closing at 180 feet per second. If you are talking on
the phone or worse texting, you will cross the center line or run the red light and it will happen in a split second.

            Drive like everyone else’s life depends on your actions, because the truth of the matter is that most head on collision are nothing more than not paying attention to your driving. It’s no different than if you took a gun and killed someone. You have no right and the reality is that it’s all avoidable if we increase our driving skills. Be that GREAT DRIVER!

Here’s a local news story for St. Pete that illustrates the need for great drivers:
https://www.abcactionnews.com/news/driving-tampa-bay-forward/40-people-die-in-st-pete-car-crashes-the-deadliest-year-on-record

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