For Immediate Release
Wednesday, March 6, 2019
FL DNT TXTNDRV COALITION & StopDistractions.org: “Make Florida Hands-Free!”
Tallahassee, Fla. – Standing alongside State Senator Wilton Simpson (R-Trilby) and State Representatives Jackie Toledo (R-Tampa) and Emily Slosberg (D-Boca Raton), the FL DNT TXTNDRV COALITION, along with StopDistractions.org, today called on Florida lawmakers to support the passage of hands-free legislation this Legislative Session.
Senate Bill 76, by Senator Simpson, and House Bill 107, by Representatives Toledo and Slosberg, would prohibit Florida drivers from operating a vehicle while using wireless communications devices.
“Distracted driving can have deadly consequences and it’s time we finally address this public safety crisis,” said Representative Toledo. “Children like Logan Scherer of Riverview, who was killed by a distracted driver on Interstate 75 in 2016, would be alive today if drivers would put down their phones and concentrate on the road. Passing my legislation, House Bill 107 and Sen. Simpson’s Senate Bill 76, will hopefully act as a deterrent and make our roads safe.”
According to preliminary estimates released in February 2019 by the National Safety Council, for three straight years, an estimated 40,000 people lost their lives in car crashes each year. According to the report, Florida is one of nine states that saw a 5.8 percent spike in fatalities. The report references driver behavior as one of the main reasons the numbers remain high.
Speaking in support of SB 76 and HB 107 was Brooke and Jordan Scherer, who lost their son due to a distracted driver and started the Living for Logan Foundation. During the press conference, the Scherers shared their story, saying: “On September 15, 2016, our 9-year-old son, Logan, died tragically and unnecessarily due to a distracted driver. Logan’s death was avoidable and preventable. For the past two years, it has been our mission to get distracted drivers off the road by encouraging Florida lawmakers to pass hands-free legislation, like House Bill 107, by State Representative Jackie Toledo, and Senate Bill 76, by State Senator Wilton Simpson. This epidemic of people using their phones behind the wheel has to stop. Distracted driving does not discriminate; everyone is at risk. It’s time for Florida to act. This is policy that can—and will—save lives.”
This legislation would prohibit Florida drivers from using a hand-held phone behind the wheel. Additionally, Florida drivers will not be allowed to watch, record, or broadcast photos or video while operating a moving vehicle. Further, Florida drivers will not be allowed to touch or support phone while operating a moving vehicle; however, using speaker phone will still be legal.
“The Florida Police Chiefs Association and its members believe distracted driving has created a public safety crisis in our state,” said Florida State University Police Chief David Perry, president of the FPCA. “We all see it occurring on our roadways every day, and too many Floridians and visitors to our state are being injured or killed due to distracted driving. In 2016, we saw an increase in total crashes in our state and that trend continued into 2017. In 2017, there were 3,116 fatalities on our roadways. We have also seen a marked increase in teen drivers and young adults involved in traffic crashes and fatalities. It is time for our state’s lawmakers to address the epidemic of distracted driving in our state.”
In July 2018, Georgia passed a hands-free law. In just the first month, phone use while driving dropped 22 percent. And, traffic fatalities are down 3.4 percent from 2017 to 2018, which is the largest decrease in 10 years.
StopDistractions.org, a network of families who have been tragically impacted by distracted driving, urges the legislature to finally enact this long-overdue, life-saving legislation. “These new numbers in Georgia are proof this law works and is saving lives,” said Jennifer Smith, executive director of StopDistrations.Org. “On behalf of the families here today, we must encourage Florida lawmakers to pass a similar law that singles out this unacceptable behavior.”
“The Florida PTA will always be here to stand with those that are working to protect our children,” said Khanh-Lien R. Banko, resolutions chair for the Florida PTA. “We firmly believe that distracted driving, more specifically texting while driving, is an epidemic that puts not only young drivers, but also families, at a greater risk than any other danger on our highways.”
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