Tuesday, June 19, 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: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

Editorial: A court victory for protecting Florida’s environment

A Tallahassee judge has affirmed the overwhelming intent of Florida voters by ruling that state lawmakers have failed to comply with a constitutional amendment that is supposed to provide a specific pot of money to buy and preserve endangered lands. ...
Updated: 9 hours ago
Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Editorial: Trump should stop taking children away from parents at the border

Innocent children should not be used as political pawns. That is exactly what the Trump administration is doing by cruelly prying young children away from their parents as these desperate families cross the Mexican border in search of a safer, better...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/19/18

Editorial: ATF should get tougher on gun dealers who violate the law

Gun dealers who break the law by turning a blind eye to federal licensing rules are as dangerous to society as people who have no right to a possess a firearm in the first place. Yet a recent report shows that the federal agency responsible for polic...
Published: 06/17/18
Updated: 06/18/18
Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

Editorial: Encouraging private citizens to step up on transit

The new grass-roots effort to put a transportation package before Hillsborough County voters in November faces a tough slog. Voters rejected a similar effort in 2010, and another in 2016 by elected officials never made it from the gate. But the lates...
Published: 06/15/18
Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Editorial: 40 years later, honoring remarkable legacy of Nelson Poynter

Forty years ago today, Nelson Poynter died. He was the last individual to own this newspaper, and to keep the Times connected to this community, he did something remarkable. He gave it away.In his last years, Mr. Poynter recognized that sooner or lat...
Published: 06/15/18

There was no FBI anti-Trump conspiracy

The Justice Department released Thursday the highly anticipated report on the FBI’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email probe and other sensitive issues in the 2016 election. It is not the report President Donald Trump wanted. But there is enough i...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Voter purge may be legal, but it’s also suppression

The Supreme Court’s ruling last Monday to allow Ohio’s purging of its voter rolls is difficult to dispute legally. While federal law prohibits removing citizens from voter rolls simply because they haven’t voted, Ohio’s purge is slightly different. T...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

Editorial: Free rides will serve as a test of whether the streetcar is serious transportation

Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to ride for free?This fall, the TECO Streetcar Line eliminates its $2.50-a-ride-fare, providing the best opportunity yet to see whether the system’s vintage streetcar replicas can serve as a legitimate transportation a...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/15/18

AT&T and the case for digital innovation

A good way to guarantee you’ll be wrong about something is to predict the future of technology. As in, "One day, we’ll all …" Experts can hazard guesses about artificial intelligence, driverless cars or the death of cable television, but technologica...
Published: 06/14/18
Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

Editorial: State, nonprofits share obligation to help Hillsborough’s foster kids

The Florida Department of Children and Families has correctly set a quick deadline for Hillsborough County’s main child welfare provider to correct its foster care program. For too long the same story has played out, where troubled teens who need fos...
Published: 06/14/18