In the wake of a new report highlighting an increase in fatalities among teen drivers, Governor Rick Scott has declared this Florida Road Safety Week. James Call reports, Scott joined law enforcement officials and paramedics on the steps of the Capitol to call attention to the hazards of impaired and distracted driving.
The National Governors Highway Safety Association says teen driving fatalities increased 11 percent in the first six months of 2011. Florida posted the third biggest increase with 15 deaths, a 66 percent jump from the previous year. Governor Scott’s in proclaiming Road Safety Week calls on Floridians to make a strong commitment to practice safe driving.
“Drivers share a great portion of the responsibility. When we get behind the wheel we each have a responsibility to practice safe driving [and] to be alert and not distracted. Others who share the road with us deserve it. And all of us have been around individuals who have had accidents because they were listening to music and looking around and being on the phone and doing the wrong thing.”
Speaking after Scott was perhaps the Legislature’s main proponent of traffic safety laws, especially those concerning teen drivers, Boca Raton Representative Irv Slosberg. He lost a 14-year-old daughter in a 1996 car crash.
“And I’m here because of the fact I remember the day I got old was the day that the crash happened. The day my daughter Dori died Feb. 23rd.”
The state’s seat belt law is named after Dori Slosberg. Representative Slosberg had retired from the Legislature in 2006 and returned in 2010. He carries with him a report showing nothing kills more teens in the United States than driving. Florida is fourth in the country for teen driving fatality rates.
“And so you can ask me, what is the reason why did I come back? Well, I had a feeling that road safety in the state of Florida was going backwards especially for teenagers, and governor it is. Fatalities are on the rise and not only are they on the rise and the state of Florida has one of the biggest rises in the country.”
Slosberg is sponsoring two bills addressing traffic safety, one increases the age to get a driver’s license to 17 and the other would prohibit the use of cell phones and electronic devices when driving by those younger than 18. Slosberg says the House leadership has shown little interest in his or other traffic safety bills filed this session.
“Well, about passenger restrictions…not being called too many kids in the car overcrowding kids, he’s not calling that bill. They are not calling the bill about distractions; you know there are no distraction tickets given in the state of Florida? Zero. Hmmm, texting and driving, children? Texting and driving, you know what? Some kids can drive well, but these are children. They can’t text and drive it is impossible.”
Thirty-five states have a ban on texting while driving. And a Senate proposal has cleared all of its committees. But it appears that for the third year in a row the House will not address the issue. Speaker Dean Cannon has said he is quote, wary of another layer of prohibitive behavior. In the meantime, Slosberg and other safety advocates like, Colonel Dave Brierton of the Florida Highway Patrol use media events to try to encourage people to practice safe driving techniques.
“You know we enforce whatever law is in place, and so because there is no law in place at the present time we address it through public awareness and educational programs.”
Brierton stood with the Governor when Scott proclaimed February 19 through the 26th as Florida Road Safety Week. The proclamation declares distracted driving dangerous and calls attention to the suffering it creates for countless families.