A tip of the helmet to Maria Luisa Hoover and John Voss, of the Everglades Bicycle Club, for organizing Miami’s edition of last night’s Ride of Silence, honoring cyclists killed or injured by cars. Miami’s organizing task was an extra challenge this year because the usual Rickenbacker Causeway route wasn’t available. Here’s one participant’s record of the cyclists. Note the wide variety of participants. This is not just your racing crowd — which makes the point that cycling is an activity for just about anyone.
The Florida House passed an anti-texting bill today after embracing an amendment yesterday that limits how police could use the legislation. Because of the amendment, by Rep. Jose Oliva of Hialeah, the bill must go back to the Senate in the last-week logjam of the 2013 lawmaking session. Rochelle Koff, who has been following the bill for The Miami Herald, wrote earlier that Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t signaled whether he’ll sign the bill into law.
Drivers texting at the wheel are increasingly the subject of complaints by bicyclists and runners, as well as other motorists. And there’s been growing awareness in recent years that driver attention to the road is distracted not only while they’re texting but also when they’re on a cellphone call. The outgoing U.S. secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, campaigned avidly for awareness about distracted driving.
SB 52 provides a relatively small penalty, and because it classifies texting as a secondary offense a driver won’t be charged with it unless a cop has stopped him or her for some larger offense.
With the Oliva amendment the possible law is narrowed further: It states that the authorities may not subpoena a driver’s cellphone record unless the driver was involved in a crash causing death or personal injury. You can imagine this roadside scenario: trooper stops a car for speeding on Bird Road, adds on a charge of texting at the wheel, and the driver denies he was texting. Driver hires a ticket lawyer, goes to court, and because the state can’t show the cellphone record the judge faces a he said-she said dilemma.
The Florida Senate adopted legislation today to forbid texting by drivers while their motor vehicles are in motion. The vote on SB 52 was 36-0 and the bill was immediately certified for consideration by the state House.
Billy Hattaway of Florida District 1 Transportation Secretary, and David Strickland of the National Highway Safety Administration believe we are looking to do nothing less than change the driving culture of Florida. This will need law enforcement to drive public campaigns home. Remember “Click it or Ticket”? That campaign was extremely successful in convincing our freedom loving public that seat restraints must be used when traveling our American highways. On a more personal note, Billy Hattaway is on my short list of possible heroes: he was just comfortable enough to let slip the fact that he believes traffic is good for culture change. As he explained ‘How to talk to engineers’ he included the fact that reducing congestion on trips through cities should not be a priority. Things happen in cities because of interactions. If Mr. Hattaway were District 6 Secretary, we would have lower speed limits and more crosswalks on important roadways like Biscayne Blvd, South Dixie Highway and others.
Thanks to the American Public Health Association for advocating for walking and bicycling during its annual National Public Health Week this month. Some of the important national data they shared:
- In 2010, more than 4,200 pedestrians died in traffic crashes — a 4 percent increase from 2009.That same year about 70,000 pedestrians were injured in traffic crashes.
- More than 600 bicyclists died in motor vehicle crashes in 2010 and 52,000 were injured.
- More than 15 people are killed every day in the U.S. and more than 1,200 are injured in crashes involving a distracted driver.
You can learn more and join their efforts at their website.
An anti-texting bill meant to cut down on distracted driving was added to the Florida Senate calendar today for its second reading. Look for action on SB52 next Tuesday, April 16, with a floor vote on third reading sometime later. Amended versions have won unanimous approval in three Senate committees: Transportation, Communications, and Judiciary. The bill would make texting a secondary offense, meaning police could add a texting charge if a driver was stopped for a greater offense. The initial penalty would be small, but it could be stronger for repeat offenders. The similar HB13 is awaiting second reading in the House, where the only vote against it so far was cast by Rep. Jimmy Patronis of Panama City.
Cellphone use by drivers, especially for texting, is increasingly cited as a cause of crashes on America’s streets and highways. The Florida Bicycle Association and other bike advocates have made such legislation a priority for several years now.