This week is Road Safety Week in Florida, and to commemorate the week, state lawmakers joined by law enforcement gave an update Wednesday on several traffic safety bills that are moving—and may not be moving—in the Legislature.
Road Safety Week Highlights Traffic Safety
Florida Sheriff’s Association Executive Director Steve Casey says Road Safety Week is a time to honor and remember traffic accident victims who have been killed or injured.
“We think these types of efforts are important in that they serve as a rallying point to make sure the public understands the importance of public safety. Traffic accidents are still the leading cause of death in our nation, particularly for teen drivers,” said Casey.
He says one of the main priorities for the Florida Sheriff’s Association is looking into ways to deter distracted driving, and it’s something they’re always working on with the Governor’s office and the legislature.
This year, there have been several traffic safety bills filed, and Boca Raton Democratic Representative Irv Slosberg says it’s a great bipartisan effort that is particularly near and dear to his heart.
“From my point of view, everything is in honor of my daughter Dori, who unfortunately died in a car crash in 1996, and I know Dori is up there smiling down at us and saying ‘Good job, Daddy.’ The message is Democrats and Republicans alike, we’re here to speak in honor of our bills and we are going to make Florida a better, safer place to live,” said Slosberg.
Yellow Dot Program
One of the issues Slosberg is working on this year as well as in years passed is the concept of the Yellow Dot Motorist Safety program. The Senate sponsor is Royal Palm Beach Democrat Joseph Abruzzo.
“The Yellow Dot program will allow all individuals in the state of Florida to stick a yellow sticker on the back of their car, which will indicate to first responders that their pertinent medical information is in their glove box. So, if they get in a serious car accident, our responders know they can go in that glove box and get that information that can quite possibly save their lives,” said Abruzzo.
The House bill is already heading to the floor. Abruzzo’s bill is also now heading to the floor, after it passed its last committee stop Wednesday.
Booster Seat Bill
Another bill heading to the floor is authored by Gainesville Republican Representative Keith Perry.
“Right now, in the state of Florida, after the age of three, you can put a kid in an adult seat blet. All the studies show—the Highway Safety Transportation, the CDC—that this is not safe for kids just because they turn four-years-old. So, the bill simply adds booster seat as a requirement for kids ages four and five. If you look behind us, you see the law enforcement, they can see the results of what happens when kids are placed in an adult seat belt at this young age,” said Perry.
Texting While Driving Ban
Last year, Florida passed its first texting-while-driving ban, and it’s a hot-topic this year too.
The existing ban only makes it a secondary offense—meaning law enforcement must pull someone over for another offense first. Then, they can issue a ticket for the texting.
Sachs’ bill aiming to strengthen that provision has not yet been heard. And, Sachs called on Florida residents to make their voices heard, so bills like hers can be heard.
“People of Florida, there is no more important task for Government to do than to protect the people on our highways, protect our pedestrians, and to protect those who use our highways as transportation. We must make any texting while driving a primary offense…the bottom line is there are 120 Representatives of the Florida House, I want you to contact every one of them. There are 40 Senators. I want every one of them to be contacted,” said Sachs.
Meanwhile, Slosberg’s measure increasing the penalties for those who cause the death of another while texting and driving at the same time is heading to the floor, but its Senate companion is still tied up in the committee process, only passing one of its four committees.
One measure that already passed the full Senate and is heading to the floor in the House is the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act. The bill by Republicans, Senator Miguel Diaz de la Portilla and Representative Bryan Nelson, aim to crack down on hit-and-run drivers.
For more news updates, follow Sascha Cordner on Twitter: @SaschaCordner.