Business - July 26, 2017

Florida lawmaker pushes for tougher texting-while-driving law

BOCA RATON — State Rep. Emily Slosberg is trying again to build support for a new law to make texting while driving a primary offense.

Florida is one of four states where texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning that law enforcement cannot pull over motorists for texting at the wheel.

Motorists in Florida can only be cited for texting while driving if they are stopped for other reasons such as speeding or failing to wear seat belts.

“Currently, they can see a 17-year-old looking on Google Maps, texting, Snapchatting or Instagramming, and they cannot pull that driver over,” said Slosberg, D-Boca Raton. “Distracted driving fatalities and distracted driving injuries are increasing. This is preventable. Our law should be addressing this.”

Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teenagers in the United States. In 2015, as 2,333 people ages 16 to 19 were killed and 221,313 were treated in emergency departments for motor vehicle injuries, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Traffic fatalities in Florida increased nearly 18 percent in 2015, while teenage driver fatalities increased close to 30 percent.

Slosberg fought in the past to make texting while driving a primary offense for drivers under 18 and in school zones, but the Legislature did not approve the bills. She is now seeking local-government support for a resolution urging lawmakers to make texting while driving a primary offense.

Slosberg’s persistence for safer roadways is personal. On Feb. 23, 1996, Slosberg and her twin sister Dori, got into a car with friends. The driver, 19, was speeding 90 mph in a 50 mph zone when the car struck a median and crashed into a car heading east.

Emily Slosberg survived the crash with a punctured lung and several broken bones. Dori was killed along with four other teenagers.

“I don’t want anybody else to go through what I’ve been through,” she said before the Boca Raton City Council on Tuesday, which became the first city to pass Slosberg’s resolution in a 5-0 vote.

“I have a lot of emotion with it because this is my hometown,” she said. “My twin sister was killed in Boca Raton, so it really means a lot to me that the city supports public safety.”

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