Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Texting ban for drivers finally moves ahead

Finally in Florida, common sense looks likely to prevail.

The Senate has unanimously approved a ban on texting while driving. House Speaker Will Weatherford of Wesley Chapel has said he will let the House vote on a ban — bucking the precedents of two predecessors. And Gov. Rick Scott has promised to sign a texting-while-driving ban that just two years ago several Republican leaders called an infringement on personal freedom. Most importantly, Florida roads are about to get safer.

Under the Senate bill, texting while driving will be a secondary violation, which means a motorist would have to be stopped for some other traffic offense in order to be cited. Penalties would call for a $30 fine for a first-time texting offense. Subsequent offenses within five years would incur a $60 fine, plus three points against a driver's record. More points could be added if the violation occurs within a school zone or in connection with another serious offense. And there are reasonable exceptions: Texting would be allowed when a car is stopped or in cars equipped with hands-free technology.

It's been a long road for perennial advocates such as Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota, who didn't need the mounting evidence compiled by the National Transportation Safety Board to know that texting drivers can be as dangerous as those under the influence of alcohol. In 2011, some 2,218 easily avoidable crashes involved some form of distracted driving in Florida, including 145 traffic mishaps, some of them fatal, that were caused by texting drivers.

Finally, the tide has shifted. The telecommunications industry — perhaps because it is no longer so dependent on per-text charges — has stopped fighting texting-while-driving bans, which now are in effect in some form in 45 states. And state lawmakers — including Pinellas' own Sens. Jack Latvala and Jeff Brandes — are on board after being vocally opposed just two years ago on the dubious grounds that a driver's right to use a mobile device supersedes everyone else's right to travel safely.

If the governor and the Legislature follow through, Florida's roads finally should be a bit safer.

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Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Updated: 4 hours ago

Correction

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Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18