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News Story
Updated: 12/28/2013 08:00:01AM

Florida’s poor driving record calls for action

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Anyone who gets behind the wheel in Florida already knows the state is home to some poor drivers.

That reality was reinforced recently during a study in each of the 50 states.

Florida was ranked as the sixth worst state for drivers. Louisiana was the worst, according to

The rankings are determined by the fatality rates per 100 million miles traveled, failure to obey traffic signals and seat belt laws, drunken driving, careless driving and tickets issues.

There are several reasons Florida ranks so poorly.

It is documented that the highest percentage of drivers involved in accidents are young people and the elderly. Florida has plenty of both.

The state’s attempts to regulate poor driving habits — such as texting or talking on cellphones — has been superficial. There is a state law against texting, but a person cannot be charged with the misdemeanor unless they are stopped for another violation.

Talking on a cellphone is fine in Florida, despite the obvious danger of distraction.

And, while Florida police attempt to enforce drunk driving laws, how often do we see drivers convicted of DUI back behind the wheel in no time — often driving on a suspended license?

State Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, has been an outspoken critic of the lack of laws against cellphone use after his daughter was killed in a 1996 car crash.

Slosberg, in The Associated Press story, said he was not surprised Florida ranks poorly.

“It’s just so difficult in passing road safety legislation in the state of Florida,” he said. “What parent would want their child to be on a cellphone or text on a cellphone unless it’s an emergency? These are like no-brainer things.”

Slosberg, who has been unable to make texting a primary offense, was able to pass a bill in 2009 making not using a seatbelt a primary infraction. For 23 years, not using a seatbelt had been, like texting now, a secondary infraction.

There are several factors that lawmakers and police cannot control. For example, they cannot get in the head of a 16-year-old who wants to show off for his friends and drive recklessly. And, they cannot park a person who is realistically too feeble or in such poor health that they should no longer be driving. Individuals have the right to drive as long as they can pass a simple test.

Lawmakers can, however, toughen up laws that regulate cellphone use. They can make it more difficult to drive again after you are convicted of a DUI.

Another help would be to put more money into road construction and speed up the widening of our interstate system. While not directly the cause of the majority of accidents, crowded highways lead to inpatient drivers and that is not a good formula for safety.

Again, no one has the power to make every driver a cautious one or a good one. But with tougher laws and oversight, Florida’s roadways could be safer.

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