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| Columns |

Ban Cell Phone Driving to End Florida's Killing Fields for Bicyclists

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Fifty-three-year-old Denise Marsh was killed this past weekend when a distracted driver plowed through a group of bicyclists on State Road 84. Two others were critically injured and still in the hospital as of late Monday.

A 33-year-old woman, Nicole Vanderweit, was driving a Honda Fit when she was distracted by something in the glove compartment — or maybe it was the sun — when she hit the outside column of riders. She hasn't been charged with a crime. 

The heart of this situation — and that of hundreds of other bicyclists killed in Florida, the nation's deadliest state — is that elected leaders on both sides of the aisle refuse to take action on drivers who carelessly use their cell phones while driving. California, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Vermont, Washington, West Virginia plus Washington, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands all prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.

Now a Republican state senator from Trilby, Wilton Simpson, is proposing the “Florida Ban on Wireless Communications Devices While Driving Law.” It would prohibit texting, reading data, or talking on wireless handheld devices while behind the wheel.

For years, the Florida Legislature and governor have refused to take action on measures that would save both bicyclists and drivers' lives. South Florida is the Sunshine State's most lethal region for this. Even the state Department of Motor Vehicles' site warns against our crappy laws. "Driving and talking on a cell phone is perfectly legal in Florida," it warns. "But should you do it — NO."

Sure, texting while driving is illegal here, but it is a secondary offense. Cops generally cannot stop you for it, even if they see you banging away at the keys while traveling 80 miles per hour. Last year, a bill that would have at least made it a primary offense died in the state Senate after liberals complained it would increase the likelihood of racial profiling.

Really?

Under Simpson's measure, it would be illegal to speak on the phone unless it was hands-free. This would be a primary offense. So, as Nike and Colin Kaepernick say, "Just do it."

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