Op:Ed: Save Lives; Put The Phone Down

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By: Rep. Emily Slosberg

Losing a family member in a senseless car crash is unspeakably painful. My family and I, like many others across the state, experienced this when we lost my twin sister in a crash that could have been prevented.

I made a promise to myself that if I was lucky enough to represent my fellow Floridians in the statehouse, I would make traffic safety a priority.

As your representative, I vow to fight for laws that would protect the ones you love. I hope that as we approach 2019, we can introduce a bill that would help prevent drivers from using their cell phones while behind the wheel.

The statistics are alarming. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, motor vehicle fatalities have increased an alarming 43 percent since 2014. There has also been a double-digit spike in distracted driving-related crashes. In 2015 alone, there were more than 45,000 distracted driving crashes in Florida, resulting in more than 39,000 injuries and more than 200 fatalities.

The ubiquitous use of smartphones behind the wheel is one of the leading causes for the rise in vehicle crashes in Florida and other states across the nation. A driver might think a quick text is harmless, but in mere seconds an unexpected pothole or a braking car ahead can easily result in a tragedy.

The implementation and enforcement of distracted-driving laws, which discourage texting while driving and ban handheld cellphone use, are important first steps. We also must continue to educate motorists about the dangers of driving under the influence of not just alcohol, but also recreational and prescription drugs.

Crash safety has made tremendous progress over the last few decades. In Florida, we have worked together to better protect the public with seatbelt enforcement, but we are still one of the few states that texting while driving is only a secondary offense, meaning a driver can be issued a citation if an officer stops them for another traffic offense.

But we must take this a step further. I do not want another family to deal with the loss of a loved one to the senseless, and fully preventable, act of distracted driving.

I promise to continue to fight for a distracted driving law that better protects us all.

Until that time, please – make a promise to yourselves and your own families. Put your phone down. Keep your eyes on the road. Pay attention. There are countless families who have already been emotionally destroyed. Do your part to respect and remember those we have lost, and to protect those we can save.