Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Drive, don't text: a Florida law whose time has come

We are a state that brought the world military groupies in pearls, new ways to mess up elections and legislation on everything from dwarf-tossing to baring your boxers atop your trousers.

We are Florida, land of dubious distinctions.

Here's a more sobering one: We remain one of the only states in America that does not prohibit drivers who are hurtling down the interstate at high speeds from taking their eyes off the road to type out text messages (hey u want pizza 2nite?)

Which is astounding.

Thousands of crashes, injuries and deaths are attributed to texting and other driving distractions yearly. No less than 39 states already ban texting at the wheel, with five more aimed at new drivers, since teenagers tend to text like the rest of us breathe. No-duh laws, you could call them.

But in Florida, we want government's nose out of our business and our cars. You can pry our cellphones from our cold, dead hands, just as soon as we sign off with a smiley-face emoticon.

Here's how state Sen. Nancy Detert, a Republican from Venice, sees it: "Your freedom stops once you've crossed over into my lane." And if you've ever looked in alarm at a swerving driver in traffic to see his head bent and hands busy with his phone, you may agree.

Her name, she says when I ask, rhymes with "feet hurt," which seems appropriate when you have been around Tallahassee, where a sane and sensible texting bill has had no luck.

Already Detert has filed one for the next session. She hopes to make the act of putting our text conversations on hold so we can drive as routine for the next generation as clicking on a seat belt.

You know, that law that saves lives.

The bill, she says, got stuck between camps: the no-government-in-my-car group, and those on the other side who didn't think it went far enough without banning other distracting behaviors and electronic devices.

But hey, isn't this supposed to be a new day?

Didn't voters recently make clear they are in no mood for petty partisan politics and pledges by people who cannot think for themselves? Obstructionists are out, and the prevailing vibe is: Get it done or get gone.

Already some elected officials are vowing group hugs across the aisle — so far, anyway.

Senate Bill 52 is remarkable in its potential for common ground. It doesn't ban talking on cellphones, just texting. It addresses a concern that a texting ban could be used for racial profiling, an excuse to pull someone over for the color of his skin. Under this bill, police can only add that $30 texting fine after they stop a driver for something else, like speeding.

The law's real power, though, is in taking temptation away.

We are stressed. We are late. Ever texted be there in 5, even at a traffic light? In a AAA report, 94 percent of drivers said texting at the wheel isn't okay — and more than a third said they recently did it themselves. The threat of a ticket can be most persuasive in changing behavior.

Florida lawmakers have let this one linger too long. If they want to shake a dubious history of a bickering Legislature unable to work together for the greater good, a no-duh law to save lives would sure be a start.

Drive, don't text: a Florida law whose time has come 11/27/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 27, 2012 7:10pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Clearwater eyes hiring new downtown director within two months

    CLEARWATER — Now that the city director tasked with revitalizing downtown has resigned after his arrest on a battery charge during Oktoberfest, City Manager Bill Horne said the goal is to not leave the position vacant long.

    Clearwater Assistant City Manager  Micah Maxwell will oversee downtown until the city hires a replacement for Seth Taylor.
  2. Tampa Bay's Top 100 Workplaces deadline extended to Nov. 17


    Think you work at one of the best places in Tampa Bay? You've got a little more time to make a pitch.

    Penny Hoarder and Gregory, Sharer & Stuart were among those at an event in Tampa last May honoring winners of the Tampa Bay Times Top Workplaces awards. Nominations are now open for this year.  
[OCTAVIO JONES   |   Times]
  3. Little separates McElwain and Muschamp eras of futility at Florida


     Florida Gators head coach Jim McElwain watches the second quarter of the Florida Gators game against Texas A&M, at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium, in Gainesville.
  4. Tampa-based Checkers testing delivery, aims for record expansion


    TAMPA — Tampa-based Checkers Drive-In Restaurants continues to fly under the radar compared to dominant burger chains like McDonald's and Burger King.

    Checkers Franchisee Shaji Joseph, of Tampa, hoses down the front walkway of his store at 6401 Park Boulevard, Pinellas Park. The business has a new look including signage and exterior tile. One drive through has been eliminated for an outdoor dining area, right. Joseph owns nine Checkers and is planning to open his tenth in Tampa.
[SCOTT KEELER   |   Times ]
  5. Advice for presidents from military families they've tried to console


    One family returned the letter because it was full of errors. Another was left cold when the letter they got screamed "robo-pen." Still another was puzzled to find 17 copies of their letter in the mailbox.

    Army Chief Warrant Officer 3 Aaron Cowan, 37, was killed in a helicopter training accident in South Korea on Feb. 26, 2005. [Courtesy of Kari Cowan]