Florida Officials Seek to Ban Cell Phone Use in Cars and Public Meetings

The Sunshine State contemplates a new direction in regulatory overreach.

To ban or not to ban, that is the question.

Throughout the state of Florida, lawmakers and citizens’ groups are casting their ire on cell phones, demanding the government step in and ensure safety and transparency in one fell swoop.

In one case there is a proposal to stop tech-loving drivers from picking up their cell phones while behind the wheel. In another, there is a move to stop lawmakers from texting lobbyists during public meetings.

Though the proposals are vastly different, they represent the growing push to legislate and regulate citizens’ relationships with their mobile devices.

The most visual protest occurred on Tuesday at the Tampa Convention Center, where the site played host to the first-ever Florida Distracted Driving Summit.

It was attended by some 300 public officials, lawmakers, and car-crash victims sharing their stories.

“Florida needs to pass a distracted driving law,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, one of the more high-profile attendees who delivered the keynote address. “We can make a difference. What it takes is really mobilizing people, educating people and having you all persuade legislators.”

He pointed to the federal government’s aptly-named website, distraction.gov, and labeled distracted driving the “epidemic” of our time, recommending strict measures to keep drivers from handling mobile devices while they’re behind the wheel.

But while anecdotal evidence seems to be leading the debate concerning distracted driving laws, a recent study casts doubt upon the assertion that mobile phones are the main culprit in roadway crashes.

A March 2012 study sponsored by the American Automobile Association and conducted by the University of North Carolina’s Highway Safety Research Center found that young drivers, the most accident-prone among all driving groups, are most likely distracted by rowdy passengers in the car, changing the radio station, and eating or drinking while at the wheel.

Use of mobile devices was the least prominent distraction observed, being overtaken by “adjusting controls, personal hygiene, communicating with someone outside the vehicle and reaching for objects in the vehicle,” according to the study.

“Electronic device use and other distracted driver behaviors were strongly associated with looking away from the roadway, although electronic device use was only weakly related to serious incidents,” the authors concluded.

Public Meetings

The presence of mobile phones at government meetings, on the other hand, was first addressed in the battle over the sick-leave initiative at the Orange County Commission.

The proposed ballot referendum would have required businesses with more than 15 employees to offer one hour of sick time for every 37 hours of work—capping one week of annual sick leave.

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  • ||

    That is the most offensive Bronco Bama photo I have ever seen (meaning, I am offended by his shit-eating smirk). I need to go punch something now.

  • Scruffy Nerfherder||

    Commissioners also proposed installing jamming devices to stop communications coming from public meetings, as well as outright banning cell phones on days when meetings are held, according to meeting minutes from the Orange County Commission.

    Methinks they might have an ulterior motive for this.

  • Stevie Nichts||

    Well, yeah. They only want commissioners to text union lobbyists to get their marching orders.

  • ||

    "If I'm gonna be on hold this long, I might as well be ripped."

  • LTC(ret) John||

    Man, I am going to wear this out today - but needs must, so "fuck off, slavers".

  • Anonymous Coward||

    Yaël, I understand you're new, but you're not allowed to post the ultimate Obama smugdouche photo without alt-text. We have community standards around here. On to the article:

    Use of mobile devices was the least prominent distraction observed, being overtaken by “adjusting controls, personal hygiene, communicating with someone outside the vehicle and reaching for objects in the vehicle,” according to the study.

    Never let the facts stand in the way of the narrative. The narrative is all.

  • Brett L||

    Yup. I've already sent my local rep a note saying that if this bill gets out of committee, I expect her to amend applying makeup, dogs free on the front seat, and eating to the list of verboten behaviors whilst driving. As my housemate just got himself a job at the Lege in the Clerk's office, I expect to have some good stories to tell about next session.

  • Fist of Etiquette||

    THERE BETTER BE AN EXEMPTION MADE FOR THE SPECIAL PEOPLE.

  • WWNGD?||

    I know the ban on cell phone usage while driving is working so well in New York. If I didn't obey the law, with my cell phone I would take pictures of all the people using cell phones while driving.

  • WWNGD?||

    I can not see the picture of smug Obama, not that I want to but I feel robbed. I tried in both Firefox and Chrome. Now if the picture is hosted on Facebook then that explains it, I have facebook blocked. Facebook is bad mmmmkay.

  • WWNGD?||

    Dang-nab-it, I see the picture now, it is from the main page but not on this page. I come to reason from a feed reader not from the front page.

  • mr lizard||

    Idk this sounds like a whole lot of noise. The Florida legislature see the inaction on cell phone bans as a way of thumbing their nose at the NTSB last year.

  • Pillage||

    “Florida needs to pass a distracted driving law,”

    It's already illegal to be distracted while driving.

  • Stevie Nichts||

    "...a move to stop lawmakers from texting lobbyists during public meetings."

    It's only an issue because they're not texting UNION lobbyists.

  • Stevie Nichts||

    “Florida needs to pass a distracted driving law,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood

    Why? The Democrat Party isn't big on states rights; just have Harry Reid or Nancy Pelosi propose a nationwide ban, right?

  • mtrueman||

    I have an idea that will allow drivers of cars or trucks to do as they please while behind the wheel. They should be able to play with the radio or mp3 player, their phone, watch TV, browse the internet, dress themselves, eat, drink, smoke - anything they feel the urge to do AS LONG AS there is a passenger sitting beside them paying full attention to road and traffic around them.

    It's a compromise I know, but it will allow maximum freedom to the driver who has other important things to do with only negligible effect on traffic safety.

  • Anders||

    This has been tried many times before (cars). It is unenforceable.

  • jason||

    This is nice and very good decision in the order of public security.

  • nikea||

    Today, Columbus boasts more than 70 buildings http://www.drdrebeatsbydreau.com/ designed by internationally celebrated architects like I.M. Pei, Eliel Saarinen, Eero Saarinen, Richard Meier and http://www.nikefootballcleatstrade.com/ Harry Weese.

  • Tablet pc||

    I think it ie no need to do this, if my home are on fire and i can not use phone in the car, what should i do? no one can contact me...

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