Coalition Applauds House Judiciary Committee for Advancing Texting While Driving Legislation
Tallahassee, Fla. — The FL DNT TXT N DRV Coalition, consisting of numerous law enforcement organizations, local governments, and Florida-based businesses and individuals, today joined Representatives Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) and Emily Slosberg (D-Boca Raton) and others at a press conference to raise awareness on House Bill 33, relating to texting while driving.
With Children’s Week at the Capitol, Representatives Toledo and Slosberg recognized the importance of safeguarding Florida’s children by advancing HB 33, which would make texting while driving a primary offense, to make roadways safer for future generations.
“In 2016, there were over 50,000 distracted driving crashes in Florida, resulting in more than 200 fatalities, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,” said Representative Toledo. “This equates to more than 5 crashes every hour. As the mother of five children, these numbers are as frightening as they are compelling. As an engineer, the data is crystal clear. And as a legislator, my goal is safer streets and the rule of law. I thank the Speaker for his support and encouragement and look forward to sending this bill to Governor Scott.”
“I want to ensure that Florida’s roadways are safe for residents and our guests,” said Representative Slosberg. “As someone who lost a twin and was almost killed in a car crash, I want to ensure that no family has to go through what my family did. I also want to thank all of the cosponsors on both sides of the isle for their support - saving lives is an issue that transcends party lines.”
Immediately following the press conference, the House Judiciary Committee took up and passed HB 33. HB 33 would strengthen the current ban on texting, emailing, and instant messaging while driving, by changing the current enforcement of the ban from secondary to primary. It is now available for consideration by the House Government Accountability Committee, its last committee of reference.
“The FL DNT TXT N DRV Coalition thanks the House Judiciary Committee for their support of this important measure that if passed would be life-changing for all Florida drivers,” said Keyna Cory, coordinator of the FL DNT TXT N DRV Coalition. “According to research done by Virginia Tech Transportation Institute, individuals who used text messaging increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by two times and resulted in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds total. With this alarming statistic, we are pleased to see the overwhelming support this good measure continues to receive in the House of Representatives, with approximately 50 House members now signed on as co-sponsors of the bill.”
According to the National Safety Council, more than 100,000 crashes a year involve drivers who are texting, causing life-changing injuries and deaths.
“It’s time for Florida to join the 46 other states who have already made texting while driving a primary offense,” said Logan McFaddin, Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) regional manager. “This issue has already impacted too many families and could easily be remedied; this session is the time to end texting while driving and save lives.”
“As an advocate for children and youth, Florida PTA firmly believes that distracted driving, more specifically texting while driving, is an epidemic that puts our young drivers at a greater risk than any other danger on our highways,” said Cindy Gerhardt, president of the Florida Parent Teacher Association. “The startling statistics are growing, more youth are dying and only when we take stronger measures can we stop this epidemic in its tracks. It is our belief that increasing opportunities to enforce this law by transitioning it from a secondary to a primary offense will force a new level of accountability and awareness to our youth that no text is worth the ending of a life full of potential and possibilities.”
“We need to teach young drivers how to properly and safely use technology behind the wheel, which is not using it at all,” said Mark Merwitzer, chairman of the Palmetto Bay Youth Community Involvement Board. “Developing safe driving habits early on is essential, as these habits will hopefully stay with these young drivers throughout the rest of their lives. Young lives will be saved by this legislation, thanks to the Florida Legislature.”
“This epidemic is affecting everyone across gender, age and ethnicity. By making the law a primary offense you will have taken a major step toward making Florida’s roads safer,” said Debbie Wanninkhof, whose son, Patrick, died at the hands of a cell phone distracted driver in July 2015. Patrick’s family continues to make it their mission to prevent injuries and save lives on Florida roads.
The FL DNT TXT N DRV Coalition includes Florida businesses, associations, law enforcement, local governments, trade and medical organizations as well as the AARP, AAA and the Florida PTA. For more information about the FL DNT TXT N DRV Coalition, please visit FLDontTextandDrive.com.