FL DNT TXT N DRV COALITION Urges Florida Lawmakers to Make Texting While Driving a Primary Offense

AAA Driving Simulator Showcases Manual, Cognitive & Visual Distractions with Use of Wireless Communications Devices While Driving

Tallahassee, Fla. – The FL DNT TXT N DRV COALITION, consisting of numerous law enforcement organizations, local governments, and Florida-based businesses and individuals, today called on Florida lawmakers to pass legislation during the 2018 Legislative Session that would make texting while driving a primary offense.

“All too often we hear of the tragic stories of families that have been affected by someone who was texting behind the wheel,” said Senator Keith Perry, who is sponsoring Senate Bill 90, relating to the Use of Wireless Communications Devices While Driving. “I’m proud to sponsor this vital piece of legislation that will make texting and driving a primary offense in the State of Florida and join the many other states who have answered the call for safer roadways.”

During 2013, Florida took the first step in banning texting while driving, where motorists can only be cited for texting while driving if they are pulled over for other reasons.  Senate Bill 90 would go a step further, making texting while driving a primary offense and fines for violations will be deposited in the Emergency Medical Services Trust Fund.    

“The Florida Sheriffs Association supports this legislation and hopes it will encourage drivers to focus on their responsibility to operate vehicles in a safe manner on Florida highways,” said Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, who also serves as the president of the Florida Sheriffs Association.  “Distracted driving is a serious public safety issue and hopefully this will send a message to the public that this is a traffic safety priority for law enforcement throughout the state.”

“The Florida Police Chiefs Association is fully supportive of efforts to prohibit texting while driving as a crucial step toward making Florida’s roads safer,” said Miami Shores Police Chief Kevin Lystad, who also serves as the president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “Distracted driving is incredibly dangerous, not only for our drivers but also for our officers out on the road, protecting our residents.”

According to the National Safety Council, more than 100,000 crashes a year involve drivers who are texting, causing life-changing injuries and deaths. 

“PCI is a proud supporter of the Florida Don’t Text and Drive Coalition and supports legislation that helps improve safety and reduce costs,” Logan McFaddin, regional manager of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).  “The distracted driving epidemic must be addressed. We need to change driver behavior, and we believe toughening the distracted driving laws in Florida will save lives by encouraging people to think twice about picking up the phone while driving.”

Drivers, who choose to text and drive, are not only a danger to themselves, but to everyone else on the road.  According to Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Research, individuals who used text messaging increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by two times and resulted in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 seconds total.

“On behalf of more than 2.8 million AARP Florida members, we thank state lawmakers for taking an important step toward safer roads for all of us,” said Jeff Johnson, AARP’s Florida state director.  “As of 2016, 46 states, along with District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the US Virgin Islands, ban text messaging for all drivers. We want to thank Sen. Keith Perry and Rep. Emily Slosberg, who have been persistent, persuasive and ultimately successful in their fight for this legislation.”

AAA today brought its driving simulator to give Florida lawmakers a firsthand account of the risks of texting while driving, which combines all three type of distractions, including manual, cognitive and visual. “AAA applauds the legislative efforts to improve the texting while driving law in Florida,” said Karen Morgan, APR CPRC, with AAA, The Auto Club Group. “Strengthening the law to primary enforcement will send a clear message that distracted driving is a dangerous behavior.”

“As an advocate for children and youth, Florida PTA firmly believes that distracted driving, more specifically texting while driving, is an epidemic that puts our young drivers at a greater risk than any other danger on our highways,” said Cindy Gerhardt, Florida PTA president. “The startling statistics are growing, more youth are dying and only when we take stronger measures can we stop this epidemic in its tracks. It is our belief that increasing opportunities to enforce this law by transitioning it from a secondary to a primary offense will force a new level of accountability and awareness to our youth that no text is worth the ending of a life full of potential and possibilities.”

StopDistractions.org, a network of families who have been tragically impacted by distracted driving, urged the legislature to enact this long-overdue, life-saving primary enforcement legislation. “Distracted driving continues to pose a major threat to the State of Florida,” said Jennifer Smith, executive director of StopDistrations.Org.  “People are dying every day because of this epidemic.  We have paid the ultimate price of losing the ones we love.  On behalf of the families here today, we must encourage Florida lawmakers to pass a law that singles out this unacceptable behavior.”

In addition to SB 90, which was also represented at the press conference today by Co-Sponsor Senators Rene Garcia and Jose Rodriquez, Representatives Emily Slosberg and Richard Stark have filed a comparable bill, House Bill 121, relating to Texting While Driving.

For more information about the FL DNT TXT N DRV COALITION, please contact Keyna Cory at keynacory@paconsultants.com or (850) 566-9575.  For additional resources, please visit StopDistractions.org and ItCanWait.com

Contact: Kristen Bridges, kristen@bascomllc.com, 850.545.1917