Goodness knows, the Florida legislature's status as a consistent source of silly ideas and outright idiocy is legendary. If you don't believe me, just ask Carl Hiaasen.
Well, it's that time of year again, and this time at least one instance of silliness (at least) revolves around a proposal to curb, not ban, texting while driving, and Speaker of the House Dean Cannon (R - Winter Park).
Here's the deal. In the Senate, Sen. Nancy Detert (R-Venice) has once again put forth a bill, SB 416, which seeks to curb texting while driving. As the Tampa Bay Times reported Jan. 28, the bill would only penalize people for texting if they do so while committing a primary infraction, such as speeding, running a red light or causing a crash. The first citation would deliver a fine of $30, while a second would result in a $60 ticket. Texting while causing an accident puts six points on a driver's license. And no one can get ticketed simply for texting while driving. (Read the bill's text here.)
Basically, no one is prevented from texting while driving, but if someone chooses to do so and commits a moving violation or causes a crash, there will be an added consequence.
The senator's third attempt at passing this ban may be the charm. Her reasonable proposal has gained considerable support in the Senate, the Times reports, and passage appears likely. Bucking up the Senate's support is a recent poll conducted by Mason-Dixon for the Tampa Bay Times, the Miami Herald and other state media outlets that shows 71% of state voters favor a ban on texting while driving.
Unfortunately, over in the House of Representatives, a companion bill sponsored by Rep. Ray Pilon (R-Sarasota), is finding hardly any support, especially from Speaker Cannon. (Read this bill's text here.)
In that same report, the Times quotes Cannon: "Look, I think a lot of our members have concerns about both the remedy and the structure of any bill that regulates individual behavior. I've got personal liberties concerns."
To reiterate, the measure being championed by Sen. Detert prevents no one from texting while driving, but adds a penalty if someone does so while causing a crash, running a red light or committing some other moving violation.
To extend the logic of Cannon's argument, the "personal liberty" of speeders and reckless drivers--because those are the only people targeted--is more important than doing something reasonable for public safety. No one's taking away anyone's ability or "right" to do something dumb like texting while driving, after all.
To take his silly logic even further, "personal liberty" should supercede any kind of regulation, such as speed-limit laws or, really, any kind of restriction on how someone may choose to drive. Maybe he'll prove the courage of his convictions and introduce legislation outlawing such onerous restrictions on our driving freedoms.
In full disclosure, I have, in fact, texted while behind the wheel of a car. (I'm not a big texter to begin with, and can probably count on one hand the number of times I've done so.) But, I'm pretty sure, only while at a red light or otherwise stopped or parked. If the state were to pass such a law, I'd likely still text in such situations. But if I were ever tempted to text while actually driving down the road, I definitely think I'd give the notion further thought. And, if I did something stupid while texting and driving at the same time--stupid enough by itself--and commit some kind of moving violation, I'd know I would deserve the extra penalty.
Finally - here's a video to check out and think about.
So - What do you think? Let us know your thoughts!