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Renewed Push For Tougher Texting While Driving Penalties May Face Resistance in Flagler

| July 28, 2017

texting and driving

Sent. (Lisa Jacobs)

State Rep. Emily Slosberg appeared Tuesday night at a Boca Raton City Council meeting as she tries to build local-government support for the Legislature to make texting while driving a primary offense.


Her proposal may be coming to the Flagler County Commission–she promises to have it make the rounds of all 67 counties–but Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin, who’s heard of Slosberg’s campaign, isn’t so sure tougher poenalties is the way to go. 

“There ought to be some kind of remedial training so we’re familiar with new laws, new policies. To me  that’s much more effective than writing tickets to people,” McLaughlin said. He would rather see a greater push on educating drivers. 

Florida is one of four states where texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning that law enforcement cannot pull over motorists for texting at the wheel. Other states are Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota. Iowa made it a primary offense starting on July 1, and Alabama is the next state to do so, starting Aug. 1. 

Motorists in Florida can only be cited for texting while driving if they are stopped for other reasons such as speeding or failing to wear seat belts.

“Currently, they can see a 17-year-old looking on Google Maps, texting, Snapchatting or Instagramming, and they cannot pull that driver over,” Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, said. “Every other state in the country enforces this as a primary offense. Distracted driving fatalities and distracted driving injuries are increasing. This is preventable. Our law should be addressing this.”

The change to a primary offense would allow police to pull over motorists for violating the state’s ban on texting while driving–a change Flagler County Sheriff Rick Staly has long favored: traffic crashes have spiked since 2012 in Flagler and Palm Coast. There’s no local available data establishing a direct link between distracted driving and crashes; the spike is more in line with the period when Palm Coast installed dozens of red-light cameras, which have been proven to increase crashes at traffic intersections. (The last of the cameras were shut off earlier this year.) But statewide data does indicate an increase in distracted-driving related crashes. 

Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Rep. Emily Slosberg.

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that in 2015, some 216 traffic fatalities were attributed to distracted driving, as were 3,444 incapacitating injuries and 203,521 crashes where property damage occurred only. In comparison, distracted driving in 2011 caused 21 deaths. The national trend is similar: The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported an 8.8 percent increase in distracted-driving-related fatalities in 2015, compared with 2014. Total deaths: 3,477.

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. In 2015, 2,333 people ages 16 to 19 were killed and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle injuries, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traffic fatalities in Florida increased nearly 18 percent in 2015, while teenage driver fatalities increased close to 30 percent.

Slosberg fought in the past to make texting while driving a primary offense for drivers under 18 and in school zones, but the Legislature did not approve the bills. She is now seeking local-government support for a resolution urging lawmakers to make texting while driving a primary offense, which she hopes would save lives and end distracted driving.

While discussing Slosberg’s proposal, Boca Raton City Council member Scott Singer implored the audience to not text and drive.

“Please don’t drive distracted,” Singer said. “Put your phone away. That one text message? It can wait.”

Slosberg’s persistence for safer roadways is personal. On Feb. 23, 1996, Slosberg and her twin sister Dori, got into a car with friends. The driver, 19, was speeding 90 mph in a 50 mph zone when the car struck a median and crashed into a car heading east. Emily Slosberg survived the crash with a punctured lung and several broken bones. Dori was killed along with four other teenagers. Slosberg’s father, former Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, also spent years urging lawmakers to improve Florida’s roadways and traffic laws.

“I don’t want anybody else to go through what I’ve been through,” she said. “That is why I’m here.”

Tuesday evening ended in a victory for Slosberg as Boca Raton became the first city to pass Slosberg’s resolution in a 5-0 vote.

“I have a lot of emotion with it because this is my hometown,” she said. “My twin sister was killed in Boca Raton, so it really means a lot to me that the city supports public safety.”

Slosberg plans to try to get all 67 counties to pass resolutions supporting the proposal to make texting while driving a primary offense. She hopes the change will pass in the House and the Senate and be approved by Gov. Rick Scott.

“I’ve written letters and called every single county commissioner,” Slosberg said. “I’m not going to stop.”

McLaughlin was asked why there should be a difference between getting ticketed for speeding as opposed to texting a driving. He answered candidly: “That’s a great question, that deserves an answer, and I don’t have it.”

–FlaglerLive and the News Service of Florida

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34 Responses for “Renewed Push For Tougher Texting While Driving Penalties May Face Resistance in Flagler”

  1. Layla says:

    I support you, Emily and I suspect many others will, too. Makes me curious as to why anybody would object to this if it saves some lives.

  2. gmath55 says:

    State Rep. Emily Slosberg is right. Texting while driving should be a primary offense. Whoever made it a secondary offense need their heads examined! Commission Chairman Nate McLaughlin are you for real? Educating drivers? That’s a slap on the wrist Nate. Haaa. You are joking. Drivers don’t learn until they are ticketed and fined PERIOD. Sometimes it takes many tickets before they get it.

    Emily get ur done!

  3. Wishful Thinking says:

    There is no excuse in this world for anyone to justify texting while driving – NONE
    A cell phone that can be used hands free and eyes free is not only far faster it is far safer since driver can keep his eyes on road 100% of the time
    Minimum mandatory minimum 5 year revocation of driver’s license with no judicial discretion allowed. If fatality involved life involved voluntary manslaughter minimum 15 years in the pen no parole….

    Sounds like McLaughlin , as usual, supports only those who did not elect him. Wonder if he texts while driving ( to and from his ribbon cuttings and free hot dog ‘district’ meetings meetings) himself….

  4. Sw says:

    Y would one in their right mind be against this. A driver can pick the others out who are texting by driving behavior. Rampant

  5. palmcoaster says:

    Nate you didn’t have an answer to the question then zip it! Slosberg is right!
    Texting and driving is a real hazard that we all have to deal on a daily basis just as we can see it even in fast highways like I-95.
    I do not text and drive simply because is dangerous kind of suicidal and even criminal.

  6. Kathy says:

    Phones should not work while vehicle is moving. Period!

  7. The Oracle says:

    I can’t agree with Nate. Stiff , enforceable penalties will work. Educating someone on what they already know is an excellent example of wasting tax payers money. We should consider $250.00 for first offenders, and increased penalties for repeat offenders or those driving with others in their vehicle. Unfortunately when the “right person” gets killed we may take this more serious.

  8. Peaches McGee says:

    Let people text, play games, apply make-up, eat, fight, have sex, drink, and generally do whatever they want when they drive. Obviously not enough people, including the innocent, have died for our politicians to take note.

    Really want to scare the bejesus out of a politician? Make them ride in the back with a gaggle of teenage girls. After they change their wet shorts then maybe, and only maybe, will they consider making the streets a better place for the rest of us.

  9. Rick Kang says:

    Palm Coast should install speed cameras! Too many people are driving 50-70+mph on roads posted for 35mph. A $1000 fine for driving 20+mph over the posted speed limited!

  10. Joe Kenda says:

    what is wrong with you people..texting, even talking on the phone while driving KILLS PEOPLE!! i guess only when you lose a loved one will you wake up!! such a sorry community!!

  11. Concerned Citizen says:

    Finally !!

    I am with Representative Slosberg on this one. I worked in the public safety field for years in several different aspects and saw the end result of texting/driving distracted. It’s pointless and deadly.

    I currently drive a commercial vehicle for a living and our company has a strict no tolerance policy for cell usage/driving distracted. I myself maintain this behavior in my personal vehicle often at the annoyance of friends. It can wait.

    I cannot tell you how many times a day I see near misses resulting from distracted driving. And it’s not just from young people. Older folks have devices in their face as well !!

    Honestly folks you might not think it or like it but that text can wait. Studies have shown it takes split seconds for an accident to occur when you remove your eyes from the road.

    How many times have we seen someone blow thru a light or miss the cycle and hold folks up because of the phone. How many times has someone blown thru an intersection because they weren’t paying attention??

    Bills and are great. Enforcement is awesome. What it all boils down to is personal accountability and responsibility as adults. From the time you reach driving age you are handed an awesome amount of responsibility. Yet today we take this for granted.

    I don’t want to loose my life or become gravely injured because you want to text. I don’t want to get that 3am phone call from FHP that a loved one or friend has died because you “needed to use the phone” It sucks and has happened twice in my life.

    Along with distracted driving we need to cut down on the aggressive/ reckless driving. That tailgating you are doing because you’re late? Doesn’t save you any time. And puts us at risk and makes you an asshat.

    That stop sign or red light you just ran cutting me off with seconds to spare? What did that accomplish? Don’t ruin my day because you didn’t plan accordingly!! A lack of planning on your part doesn’t constitute an emergency on mine.

    If we all just exercised mutual respect/decency and a little more judgement and tolerance maybe the roads wouldn’t be so deadly. The amount of deaths in Flagler County alone are astounding. Yet we can all make a difference.

    Sorry for the soapbox but it’s time we all started doing things a little different. And it starts with us behind the wheel.

  12. Shark says:

    What do expect from a state run by republicans !!!!!

  13. The Geode says:

    Why don’t we just throw out the fourth amendment altogether and give cops ANY excuse to stop ANYBODY for ANY reason. Then again, maybe somebody other than me and “my ilk” can experience getting pulled over “just because”…

  14. john dolan says:

    Just about every teen driver I see is texting or looking at their phone. Your vehicle is no different than a loaded gun with a reckless person behind the wheel. Primary offense PLEASE!

  15. Fredrick says:

    Shark you are right. Florida could be run by Democrats and be in the financial shape if Illinois.

  16. Pogo says:

    @Shark

    What do I expect from a state run by republicans? The same thing our country has received since 1968:

    The Past 5 GOP Presidents Have Used Fraud and Treason to Steer Themselves to Electoral Victory

    The deception started long before Donald Trump.
    By Thom Hartmann / AlterNet
    http://www.alternet.org/right-wing/gop-fraud-and-treason

    So now we have a crazy degenerate who boasts of behavior that would make him a registered sex offender; “inspires” the Boy Scouts with talk of government of cesspools, encourages a group of LEOs to commit physical brutality, fires people like a mafia boss – and works for Putin. Great again yet?!

  17. tulip says:

    Nate and his ignorant remarks! Educate people about text and driving, he says? Just like people are “educated” about running red lights, speeding, blowing stop signs and many other things. Drivers disregard these rules so what makes McLaughlin think they will obey the texting one?

    What’s really scary is the thought that the rulers of Flagler county might actually fight a law that would punish texting drivers!

    Our accident and fatality rate has increased in Palm Coast due to elimination of traffic cameras and now texting. Pretty soon our auto insurance will increase quite a bit.

    For you drivers out there that text and drive, think about this—-You, or someone you care about, could be the next VICTIM of another texting driver.

  18. Trailer Bob says:

    I have been driving since I was 16 (well younger actually) and am now 62 years old. I am much better a driver than 90% of the people on the road. I do not text while driving because it is way to easy to just pull over somewhere and do so if I must. I constantly see people texting while driving and it is people of all ages that do it. No one in their right mind would consider it safe to read a book while driving or eat a sandwich, yet we still are debating the issue of using your eyes and both hands to text or google while driving. Pass this sensible and life-saving law and help us save those who have not yet been killed or disabled from this insane act while driving. It just might save my life or the life of someone I love. If not, you can take some blame for all those who will be killed or kill someone else when it could be reduced significantly with this law.

  19. Resident says:

    Wow how many Citizens have to get hurt and even die before the issue takes notice – oh, then there is someone with Creed – why do we have to wait for that – this is a horrible way to get issues resolved but at least it will get resolved Texting and driving kills more than alcohol – STOP THE MADNESS

  20. Nate the Naysayer says:

    Why is this even an option? It should be done already, primary offense all the way. Nate the naysayer does not have enough power to stop this train driven by Slosberg. Make it primary and start handing out tickets that increase that driver’s insurance needs, fines and court appearances, and jail time / loss of license as needed. From this I hear increased tax revenue, safer streets, possibly lower car insurance rates, and people learning valuable lessons through tough love education. It will not take long for people to learn, Nate’ll see.

  21. Shark says:

    What about New Jersey run by Kristy Kreme !!!!!!

  22. Wishful Thinking says:

    Scary really that Flagler County Commissioner Nate McNaughlin, also the current ‘Chair’, does not have a clue that his job is all about protecting our ‘Health, Welfare and Safety’. How about taking your own ‘education course’ Nate?
    ( Then again he was not aware after almost 7 years collecting our money – until recently- that HOA’s are not government agencies so what can we expect really……)

  23. Jack Howell says:

    Texting and Driving are a lethal combination. Unfortunately, most drivers assume this is a right. The snowflakes don’t have a clue and think that they can handle both texting and driving at the same time. Wrong!
    I believe that stiff penalties should be enacted. We have to stop this or more lives will be lost on our highways. While I detest most politicians, State Rep. Emily Slosberg has the right idea and should be supported.

  24. Mark says:

    I see the pointing fingers are out in force today. It’s the republicans fault, no it’ the democrats fault. Good Grief. This is akin to drinking and driving. There is no simple solution. No matter how many laws are enacted it will not solve the problem. These kinds of freedom sapping laws only create more criminals because many people don’t have enough self discipline to do the right thing which is to not use the phone while driving because it may distract you. One law may suffice to help. Do something that distracts you and your driving privileges are taken away. Even then, some will ignore the penalty, be they a professed republican or democrat. Strict enforcement of any penalty may reduce the problem. Teaching people to use common sense (which ain’t very common) and do the right thing may help also. A few days working the morgue or responding to some distraction caused crashes may help people make better decisions also. Throwing around political talking points sure won’t save any lives. Now, let’s get some more trees planted on Belle Terre to replace al the trees we removed from Palm Coast Parkway! Let’s give Mr Landon another raise!

  25. Roll on 2 says:

    Yes, Texting and driving needs to be a Primary offense. Even better would be to make it a moving violation with the same penalty as passing a stopped school bus!

  26. gmath55 says:

    @tulip
    Our accident and fatality rate has increased in Palm Coast due to elimination of traffic cameras…. What? Did you NOT read the article?

    There’s no local available data establishing a direct link between distracted driving and crashes; the spike is more in line with the period when Palm Coast installed dozens of red-light cameras, which have been proven to increase crashes at traffic intersections. (The last of the cameras were shut off earlier this year.) But statewide data does indicate an increase in distracted-driving related crashes.

  27. Got A Guy says:

    This is our chairman of the county commission you can’t be serious. We are so far behind the times. large states like NY, NJ Ct. Ma. You can,t even use your phone with out blue tooth. Come on Nate smarten up. I always wondered who would possible be against this law. Question answered.

  28. Timothy McInnes says:

    If we are old enough and smart enough to get a license, then we should know not to text and drive! I agree it should be a primary offense.

  29. Anonymous says:

    texting and speeding has never killed anyone….its suddenly becoming stationary that gets ya…..

  30. Anonymous says:

    so now using your phone as a gps is illegal–oh and wait lets not forget to make the phones immobile and non functioning with a car in motion,so someone kidnapped cant sneak a call out…..and lets not forget to totally ticket passengers because how the fuck is technology gonna know wether the driver or passenger used the phone? technology to prove so? well what about the few instances we see right hand drive cars on the road-yes they do exist….technology would think the driver is the passenger…

  31. mark101 says:

    Texting needs to stop. A UPS guy hit me, while texting. I asked what the hell were you thinking, he said man they got us running like crazy , so I said guess what, you get a ticket and a UPS gets a copy of the police report. Hope your job was that important.

    Texting while driving needs to stop, .

    Hell there are some very interesting youtube videos of people getting killed texting WHILE WALKING.

    People are so wrapped up with staying in touch, some are clueless about the dangers they cause. Not easy to watch. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Z_sAY_BHPNI show this to your children.

  32. Born and Raised Here says:

    Many of us must use our cell phones for texting, while on conference calls, reporting P & L’s, and routine business. I beleive it should be left up to the indiviual on there purpose with texting. Is it for business reasons or just personal. Most of us are sensible when driving and understand safety issues. Leave it the wat it is, and up to the driver.

  33. Sherry says:

    @born and raised here. . . . Your need to make a business call does NOT supersede MY right to a life UNINJURED by a distracted driver!!!

    I agree with Kathy. . . a cell phone should NEVER FUNCTION while a car is moving. The technology is available! Take a read: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/09/25/technology/phone-makers-could-cut-off-drivers-so-why-dont-they.html .

    For those that think life should revolve around the fear of “crime”. . . certainly a “PANIC” button with a GPS could be activated in case of emergency.

    Florida (my home state) is still in the 1950s. . . . and proudly moving “backwards”!!!

  34. Mark101 says:

    Saw this article, in Ohio. Woman texting kills two girls. IT could happen here or anywhere.

    http://www.wkyc.com/news/local/summit-county/grand-jury-indicts-woman-for-striking-killing-2-teens-in-coventry-township/461399142

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