Frederica Wilson's First Act In Washington: Banning Cell Phones In Cars With Kids

​Lost among the noise of a thousand tea baggings at the polls yesterday was the runaway victory of Frederica Wilson, the cowboy-hat rockin' Democrat who picked up 86 percent of the vote to replace Kendrick Meek in Congress. Wilson has never shied away from a fight -- her political career started when she was a principal and she declared war against a composting plant that was sickening kids at her school.

Riptide had a chance to sit down with Wilson recently, and she clearly has no plans to change in DC. Her first bill in Congress, she says, will aim to ban cell phones of any sort in any car with minors on board. 

"I have a real concern about cell phones and texting while driving," she says. "What I want to do is pass a bill nationally that you cannot talk on a cell or text message while you have minor children in the car."

The reason? The always devastating rash of summer news stories about kids forgotten in cars and left to die in the parking lot heat (an issue profiled recently by our own Michael Mooney.)

"I've noticed an uptick of leaving children in cars," she says. "I bet you that parent was on a cell phone. I bet you someone called and said, 'You're late, people are waiting,' and they get out of the car and the kid is still in the back. I'm going to try to stop it."

Passing anything -- particularly a sure to be controversial piece of legislation like a cell phone ban -- isn't going to be easy for a junior Democrat in a suddenly very red House. 

But Wilson isn't alone in wanting cells out of cars: Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood has advocated a complete ban on phones while driving, even on hands-free devices.

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Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink