Published On: Tue, Aug 8th, 2017

Boca Demands Tougher Texting and Driving Laws

By: Bryanna Basilio

Boca Raton has had enough of texting and driving.

New crash reports list distracted driving rose to 10 percent in Florida in 2016 while injuries associated with texting rose 45 percent in Palm Beach County. State Representative Emily Slosberg, D-Delray Beach has announced she has been working with Boca Raton City Councilman Robert Weinroth to introduce a resolution – a resolution which urges state legislature to make texting while driving a primary offense.

“If you have driven and looked to your right or left, you may have noticed the driver beside you is not looking around him or her, but is looking down presumably texting,” Councilman Weinroth said. “It’s those two seconds being inattentive that can cause accidents. Statistically, distracted driving causes more accidents in South Florida.”

Councilman Weinroth and the Boca Raton City Council have voted unanimously in favor of establishing texting-while-driving as a primary offense, but there is still more to be done before such a law exists.

“My role is to bring the attention to the public,” he said. “As a municipality, we have no law-enacting powers that would prohibit texting-while-driving in the city of Boca Raton.”

A new law such as ‘texting-while-driving as primary offense’ can only be instituted by the state to bring the law to fruition. This is where State Rep. Slosberg steps in and brings the matter to the attention of the Legislature in Tallahassee.

Texting-while-driving is one issue regarding distracted drivers but what about the others? Councilman Weinroth expressed his familiarity with such a question.

“What I have heard many times are ‘what about the people putting on lipstick?’ ‘What about the people who are shaving in their car?’” he said.

Drivers engaging in distracting innumerable activities seems almost inevitable, however, the councilman argues what the actual underlying issue is.

“It’s certainly a valid point and I would like to see that subject debated and discussed in Tallahassee,” he said. “However, texting-while-driving is a certainly a key part right now because so many people have phones. Many people are spending too much time staring down at their phones when they should be looking out their windshield to see what’s going on around them.”

Florida is one of only four states which do not make texting-while-driving a primary offense. It is a secondary offense, meaning no penalty unless the driver is pulled over for a different reason such as speeding.

“The police officer can be next to a vehicle, watch the person actually texting and be powerless unless there is a primary offense,” stated Weinroth.

Florida is one of only four states to instill texting-while-driving as a secondary offense. Weinroth has remained puzzled by Florida’s offense standards.

“I honestly don’t know, I think we have a strong lobby of people who really feel that they would like to have as little state interference prohibiting their actions,” he said.

Rep. Emily Slosberg follows in her father’s footsteps campaigning for tougher texting-while-driving laws. Her father, former Rep. Irving Slosberg, was also a Democratic member of the Florida House of Representatives of the same district. Slosberg Sr. has sponsored a similar legislation during his tenure but to no avail.

“He and his daughter Emily have spent a great deal of time through charitable foundations such as the Doris Saves Foundation,” Weinroth explained.

Since 2004, the Doris Saves Foundation has been a non-profit public service organization dedicated to traffic safety and drivers education. The foundation’s name is derived from Irving’s late daughter Doris Slosberg, who was tragically killed in a West Boca car crash in 1996. Five teenagers were killed in the serious accident while Emily Slosberg, Doris’ twin sister, survived with serious injuries. Both were 14 years old at the time.

Since the traumatic event, Emily and Irving Slosberg have made it their mission to change current traffic laws while serving as state representatives. One major step is making texting-while-driving a primary offense.

During the last legislative session, Slosberg co-sponsored a similar bill, but it never made it out of committee.

“The community should write to their legislators or to the chair of the committee that will be hearing such laws,” Councilman Weinroth advises. “It is a good idea to let them know of the community’s concern and let the matter be brought out of the committee and be debated to hear what solutions the legislature can do.”

The councilman shared a final comment, “Every day eleven teenagers die as result of texting-while-driving.” A very grim statistic with a potential of growing if tougher laws are not in place.

State Representative Emily Slosberg and City Councilman Robert Weinroth will continue their agenda for tougher texting-while-driving laws.

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