Joe Henderson: Texting while driving bill may be dead …. again

texting and driving

Today’s question: Name a place where the right to privacy apparently matters more than your right not to get splattered on the road because another motorist couldn’t resist texting while driving.

Why, we know the answer to that. It’s the Florida Legislature!

For the latest example we look to the Senate, where a bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense and might save lives is stuck in committee and likely will stay there.


Republican Sen. Rob Bradley seems to be opposed to the idea.

Big deal? OMG yeah!

Bradley leads the Senate Appropriations Committee, and the Miami Herald reported he is not allowing the bill to be heard. That prompted state Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Democrat from Boca Raton, to tell the Herald the bill “is on the verge of death.”

She is a co-sponsor of HB 33, along with Rep. Jackie Toledo of Tampa.

Verge of death, huh?

Interesting use of words there, since preventing death by distracted driving is the motivation behind making texting while behind the wheel a primary offense. Currently, police can only charge someone with texting while driving if they are first pulled over for another violation.

The bill was sailing merrily through committees in the House and Senate before it got stuck in Bradley’s legislative quicksand pit.

Bradley cited privacy concerns in bottling up the proposed bill, saying it could allow police to search a suspect’s cell phone or even increase racial profiling.

These are not insignificant issues.

You lose the right to privacy, though, when cartwheeling across four lanes of an interstate because you were sending a text and lost control of your car. That argument never penetrates the force field that continues to make Florida one of only five states that has not made texting while driving a primary offense.

Fun with numbers: The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel cited a state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles report that Florida was second-worst in the nation for distracted driving. In 2016 there were about 50,000 distracted-related crashes in Florida and 233 deaths.

Why does that never seem to balance out prohibiting someone’s “right” to fiddle with their phone when they ought to be paying attention to the road?

Republicans have been killing bills like this in the Legislature for years, all in the name of personal liberty.

What about the personal right of others not to wind up in a full-body cast, or a coffin, because someone was sending a Facebook meme while they were driving?

Florida has grown too large to allow this kind of stuff to go on. Between snowbirds who don’t know the roads and the ever-increasing population – now more than 20 million – taking to the highways is already risky enough.

Given that, Bradley’s esoteric argument that clamping down on texting while driving could be an invasion of privacy doesn’t make much sense.

We see people all the time weaving down the roads, eyes and fingers on their phone, mesmerized by a text or a cat picture.

Without coming out and saying it directly, those who keep this bill from becoming law are saying that text or picture trumps your right not to become a statistic.

Joe Henderson

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.


  • Mike

    February 27, 2018 at 11:07 am

    Where’s the great Tom Lee on this- this is an important priority- oh wait he gets no bribes from Indian gaming and can’t take his mistresses out with integrity-carpetbagger need wampum

  • Christine

    February 27, 2018 at 7:33 pm

    I am a Republican — but I do NOT support party leaders blindly. I use my intellect to make choices on legislation and issues. As a member of the human race, I strongly support the ban on texting while driving. Why? I am also a nurse — and have seen the bloody results of distracted driving. I drive on I-4 quite a lot. One day I started a mind-game that has had scary results — I found that my guesses about which drivers were texting while driving had over a 90% accuracy rate. I found that I could guess which drivers ahead of me were texting while driving — and even which hand they were using to do so!! Drivers drifting to the right were doing one-handed texting with their right hand. And the same for left-handed drivers. Try playing the game yourself — you may be shocked by the results!!

Comments are closed.


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