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Total Cell Phone Ban for Drivers: Not Likely in Florida

| December 14, 2011

But aren't billboards texting by other means?

The National Transportation Safety Board on Tuesday urged states to ban cell phone use while driving, the first such call by a federal agency.

In Florida, bills that would prohibit kids under 18 from talking-while-driving are filed by a Senate Republican and a House Democrat, while another bill, carried Republicans in both chambers, would ban texting and driving.

But the House Democrat sponsoring the bill to ban kids under 18 from using cell phones while driving said Tuesday he wasn’t confident the NTSB recommendation would go very far to move along his proposal, which he fears will die in an unfriendly House committee.

“Unfortunately for the state of Florida, all these road safety bills are bottled up in a drawer,” said Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton.

Slosberg has in the past criticized the chairman of the House Transportation and Highway Safety Subcommittee, Rep. Brad Drake, R-Eucheeanna, suggesting that Drake wants to kill bills related to regulations on drivers.

And Slosberg did again in an interview on Tuesday.

“I guess they have to go very slowly, the only thing I can do is to have patience and bring the issue up over and over and one day they’ll just be tired from hearing it from me,” said Slosberg, who has made road safety his main issue in the Legislature. Slosberg’s daughter died in a car crash several years ago, and for many years, Slosberg was best known in the Legislature for his effort to pass a bill allowing police to pull over drivers for not wearing a seatbelt, which eventually became law.

Drake didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment late Tuesday. But last month during a committee meeting, under questioning from Slobserg on a texting ban, Drake said if there was support from enough members, and if it were “feasible and realistic,” then he’d hear a bill in the committee. Slosberg is a co-sponsor of a bill (HB 299), along with Republican Rep. Ray Pilon of Sarasota, that would ban texting and driving. The measure is assigned to Drake’s subcommittee, but hasn’t been put on the agenda for a hearing.

Slosberg is also the House sponsor of a bill that would prohibit the use of handheld cell phones and other electronic devices – not just for texting, but any use – by drivers under 18 and people driving school busses, regardless of their age. That bill (HB 187) also would have to get through the Highway Safety subcommittee. The measure would also put a limit on how many passengers young drivers could have in their car.

The ban on cell phone use by minors is sponsored in the Senate (SB 930) by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Viera, while the ban on texting (SB 416) is sponsored by another Republican, Sen. Nancy Detert of Venice, and was recently approved unanimously by the Senate Transportation Committee, so the issue isn’t a partisan one.

But restrictions on what drivers can do – from seat belt and car seat laws to those restricting kids from riding in the backs of pickups – have long cut along two divides in the Florida Legislature.

One is between rural lawmakers, some of whom see it as an infringement on a personal liberty that is part of rural culture and personal responsibility that goes against the Libertarian streak in many rural areas, and everyone else.

The other is along racial lines, with some black and Hispanic lawmakers in the past expressing concerns over new traffic laws, which some fear could lead to additional racial profiling.

The NTSB said Tuesday that distracted driving, some of it due to cell phone use, contributed to nearly 4,000 highway deaths last year, citing National Highway Traffic Safety Administration data.

“According to the National Safety Council, drivers using cell phones look but fail to see up to 50 percent of the information in their driving environment,” the NTSB said in its recommendation.

The agency also said that in a national survey by AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, 69 percent of Americans reported that they’ve talked on their cell while driving in the last 30 days and 24 percent said they’ve texted or emailed while driving recently.

–David Royce, News Service of Florida

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13 Responses for “Total Cell Phone Ban for Drivers: Not Likely in Florida”

  1. it should only be hands free devices, I see way to many parents with infants in the car driving and texting in palm coast, and when they crash or hit someone “its not my fault”

  2. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    How many more people have to die?

  3. roco says:

    The headline reads in Florida it’s not likely.. What the heck is that attitude all about? If the media would support this more the politicians may listen.. They don’t care what we think, they’re only worried about getting reelected.. WE NEED THE MEDIA TO STEP UP TO THE PLATE and help this useless slaughter on our roads..

    • FlaglerLive says:

      roco, the headline reflects the substance of the story and the unfortunate reality in the Florida Legislature. This is a news story, and while we actually sympathize with your position up to a point, the headline you’d have rather seen would be on a piece that would actually advocate for a ban rather than a piece summarizing where things are politically regarding the issue.

  4. Anon says:

    If they’re so concerned about the safety of driver’s maybe they should have figured out a better marketing campaign than something that will also cause drivers to take their eyes of the road to read it. How about “don’t read this sign and keep your eyes on the road”. I seem to remember a few of Flagler counties latest road fatalities being caused by drivers not watching the road. I don’t believe this should be limited to text or cell phone calls, drivers should be required at all times to watch the road and pay attention to other drivers, pedestrians and any other road hazards.

  5. roco says:

    Flagler Live. You are my favorite means of information for us in Flagler county. Please take a stand on this issue.. If I sound iratable, I guess it’s because this issue is not new. It’s been around for years. The reason it’s been around for years I feel is because of the lack of support from the media. Without a ban people will continue to be slaugtered and the person causing it while on the cell, gets a to walk away and continue the same oh same oh…

  6. Nancy N. says:

    That NTSB recommendation obviously came from a group of people who are complete technophobes. What about completely legitimate and non-distracting uses of a cell phone in a car, like a using it to play music via an auxiliary cable hooked to your stereo, or using a smartphone with a GPS app installed on it? Listening to music and using a GPS are perfectly acceptable to the NTSB if they are done through other devices. Banning using cellphones to do them just smacks of consumer electronics lobbyists trying to force us to buy two devices by making it illegal to use just one device in our car for all our needs.

    And the NTSB is trying to claim that even using a bluetooth headset is too distracting for a driver? How is talking hands-free any more distracting than having a passenger? Are they going to ban passengers? Because my autistic 8 year old can be one heck of a distraction when she decides she doesn’t want to ride quietly.

    The NTSB needs to get with the 21st century. Yeah, you are an idiot if you text and drive, and you should use a headset when you talk. But a total ban on any cell phone use is just as idiotic.

    • Gia says:

      There will be more casualties as long that gov. officials don’t do the right thing as usual. Texting & cell phones create accidents, no doubt. Our cars insurance went up this year because of this issue, were paying more for those idiots. Bodily injury was up $$$ for every body in FL thank’s to those ignorant people.

  7. Steven Wood via Facebook says:

    well this will be one of those arguements like the red light runners use. we have the right to use our cell phones just like we have the right to run red lights. who cares who gets hurt or killed as long as it is not me or my family i have the right.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Steven, I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone say they have the right to run a red light. (I’m assuming you’re referring to the red light camera debate.) Drivers do have the right to not have penalties placed on them in unconstitutional ways…that’s a whole different argument than saying you have the right to run the right. Those of us who oppose the cameras just believe that they are an illegal and dangerous method of enforcing that rule.

      We have the RIGHT as Americans to not have the government intrude into our lives in ways that are not necessary. To me, that is what my opposition to school uniforms, red light cameras, and a cell phone ban in cars is all about. The cell phone ban is taking a nuclear weapon to a fight that can be won with much smaller measures. It is not necessary to take away that much of my liberty to fix the problem. Banning cell phone use totally in cars would interfere with the operation of certain businesses – and cause accidents as people slam on their brakes to pull over when their phone rang. Not to mention the expense to people who have to do things like replace a GPS app they’ve been using on their phone with a separate GPS device, or buy an iPod to use with their car stereo because their iPhone is no longer legal to use in that manner. It’s ridiculous! Government get out of my life! Require a bluetooth because it is a safer way to talk? Fine. Then go the heck away and leave me to my life.

      What this really requires is EDUCATION about the dangers. Because enforcing such a ban would be nearly impossible so it would be ineffective from a safety standpoint. We need to start educating people about the dangers so that they voluntarily adopt good habits – not texting while driving, using a bluetooth, etc. That is where the real safety improvements lie. But the government would much rather just ban something that it doesn’t like because it is simpler.

  8. roco says:

    Steven. I agree with you. Those people who oppose the red light cameras are not concerned with RIGHTS, they’re upset because they were caught and were fined.. Thats the “right” people who obey the laws deserve..

  9. Steve Wood says:

    Nancy what you are saying in your first paragraph is penalties are unconstitutional so what that says to me is that your are saying you have the constitutional right to run them. Its your right to run them till you all get caught or hit someone or they hit you.
    Cell phone use is not a constitutional right to use them either while driving. In Nevada there law went into effect on Oct 1 and it is a $250 fine with no questions. They were giving everyone 30 days of warnings then it is shut up or pay up.
    All Big Brother is trying to do is save a life which the users do not care about as long as they can run the light and talk or text while they are doing it. I do not like alot of laws myself but as one who assist in the picking up of the peaces after one of these accidents feels strongly for them.

    • Nancy N. says:

      Oh for heaven’s sake Steven I didn’t say that penalties for running red lights were unconstitutional…I said certain methods of enforcing those penalties, such as through red light cameras, are. There’s a huge difference.

      There is no reason that talking on a bluetooth headset should be illegal. It’s no more dangerous than talking to a passenger in the car. If I’m talking with both hands on the wheel, why does it matter if the person I’m talking with is sitting next to me or on the other end of my hands-free device? The effect is the same.

      And Roco….I’ve never been ticketed by the cameras and I am adamantly opposed to them. In fact, it’s been 20 years or so since I’ve had a traffic ticket of any kind – the only one that I’ve ever gotten in over 24 years of driving. It’s so much easier, isn’t it, to paint people who oppose your opinions as horrible dangerous people than to consider that they just might be reasonable, safe, careful drivers who just happen to have a different view of serious issues like civil liberties than you?

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