FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Mar 15, 2019
Contact: Marcos Miralles,
Chairman, Libertarian Party of Florida
MIAMI – Imagine driving down the street and you take a swig of coffee: you may soon get a ticket for doing that. Imagine driving down the street and looking over to check on your child in the backseat: you could get a ticket for doing that.
Now, just imagine doing just about anything you do now while driving. You may soon get a ticket for that.
Two pieces of legislation moving quickly through the Florida House and Senate would indeed give law enforcement the right to stop and ticket any driver for doing anything except driving. The so-called “Driving While Distracted” legislation seeks to curb hazardous driving by making it a traffic offense to doing anything that may cause distraction. Law enforcement would not need any other reason to stop a motorist.
The legislation on the House side is House Bill 107 – “An Act Relating To The Use Of Wireless Communications Devices While Driving.” On the Senate side is the revised Senate Bill 76 – “Florida Driving While Distracted Law.” Both have moved through committee review and could soon be voted on by the Legislature.[i][ii]
It’s important to understand how far-reaching these proposals would be. Indeed they would make Florida among the most restricted-driving states in the entire county. Activities prevented include:
- Applying beauty products;
- Interacting with pets and unsecured cargo;
- Using personal wireless communications devices, which includes talking on cellphones.
This means if a law enforcement officer believes the motorist is distracted by something, they may stop and cite the driver even if that driver is not violating any current motor vehicle laws. The fine would be $30 plus $10.50 in administrative assessments.
Currently, only texting while driving is banned in Florida, and then, only as a “secondary offense.” That means a law enforcement officer may not stop a driver just for texting unless in conjunction with another offence. HB 107 would allow LEOs to stop a driver solely for texting, talking on a cellphone or taking a sip of coffee. In the event of a vehicle accident with injuries or death, motorists would be required to turn over cellphone bills and other private records.
The Libertarian Party of Florida opposes this legislation which represents a deep invasion into the privacy of safe motorists. Most studies show most of us can talk on a cellphone without endangering other motorists. This bill presumes we cannot with no justification to back that presumption. Due to the difficulty in prosecuting this proposed law, more motorists may choose to fight these citations in court but they could face revealing their cell-phone records.
In general, this type of regulation represents wrong-minded approaches to social ills. The issue we should focus on is irresponsible motorists who are unable to safely control their moving vehicles, regardless of the reason. This bill attempts to control behavior in the semi-privacy of one’s vehicle. For most of us, our motoring outcomes are just fine even if we talk on the phone or pet a pet. For some, their motoring outcome is not so good for any reason. These are the motorists who need to be held responsible for the results they create.
It bears mentioning this approach is not dissimilar to many laws that seek to prohibit actions rather than hold offenders accountable. It is bad drivers, not laws that harm others.[iii] Our focus should be on drivers who are incapable of controlling their vehicle for existing conditions. They should be held accountable for their poor behavior in some manner but not at the infringement of the other, more responsible motorists.
The Libertarian Party of Florida opposes HB 107 and CS for C S for SB 76 and urges the state increase responsibility not regulation.
We urge all Floridians to contact their local Legislators to oppose these proposals. To help find your local Representative and Senator, try this handy tool: https://www.myfloridahouse.gov/Sections/Representatives/myrepresentative.aspx
– By J. Mark Barfield, Staff Writer
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