New Bill Could Put Texting FL Drivers in Jail for 30 Years

Over the last couple of years the use of cell phones has skyrocketed. As such, the use of cell phones behind the wheel has increased, contributing to almost 25 percent of all motor vehicle collisions in the United States. Sending a text message while operating a car makes the driver 23 times more likely to be involved in a crash, this likelihood exceeds that risks involved in dialing the phone, talking and/or listening to the phone, or reaching of the phone. While all of these activities behind the wheel are dangerous, texting while driving is by and far the most risky. Both teen drivers as well as experienced adult drivers in Florida are texting and driving. The safety of Florida’s roadways are at risk and in response to these present hazards, Rep. Irv Slosberg is looking to make a change to the legislation.

In the proposed bill sent to the House of Representatives last week, Rep. Slosberg hopes to increase the maximum possible sentence for texting while driving that results in a fatal accident. If passed, the bill would make it so that drivers who were proven to be texting at the time of a fatal crash could be subject to as many as 30 years in jail. While the sentences reached are often lower than the 30 year maximum, this change would send a strong message to Florida drivers. Texting isn’t the only issue that the bill targets. Drivers who are typing anything into their phones, from an address into the GPS feature to updating a social media status. Rep. Slosberg is steadfast in his attempt to make Florida’s roads a safer place to drive, even stating that if the proposed bill does not pass this year, he will try again next year.

Ultimately, Rep. Slosberg plans to file a bill next session as well, in 2015. This bill would alter the punishment for texting from a secondary offense to a primary offense. According to Rep. Slosberg, texting and driving is one of the most critical dangers our generation is faced with today. He stated, “It’s almost as bad as being drunk when you’re texting and driving. You’re 27 times more likely to have a crash.” Florida joins the ranks of many other states with texting and driving laws in place. Florida, however, is far behind many when it comes to cell phone use in general. Today, 10 states as well as D.C. have laws that prohibit all drivers from using any handheld cell phones.

Texting and driving is a serious threat to all drivers on Florida’s roads. Without an active approach by parents, friends, and all of those who sit in the passenger’s seat the roads will continue to be a dangerous place to drive. Any type of cell phone use places the driver and their passengers, as well as any other vehicle in close proximity, in true danger. Do not become a statistics, do not text and drive.

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Wrong-Way Driving Accidents Continue to Haunt Florida

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) defines wrong-way driving as the “vehicular movement along a travel lane in a direction opposing the legal flow of traffic on high-speed divided highways or access ramps”. While wrong-way crashes tend happen rather infrequently, their impact is deadly. According to recent statistics, only about 3 percent of all motor vehicle collisions on high-speed divided highways are due to wrong-way driving. Still, the result of these wrong-way accidents typically involves fatalities and, at best, very severe injuries to all of those involved. Due to the typical nature of wrong-way driving, a head-on collision ensues – by far one of the most deadly types of crashes.

Head-on collisions pose an incredible threat to both vehicles involved in the crash. Wrong-way accidents are the cause of about 350 fatalities each year throughout the United States, according to statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Sadly, the frequency of wrong-way driving accidents seems to be increasing over the last several years, particularly in the state of Florida. It was recently reported that in the past two months, three wrong-way traffic crashes have causes 2 fatalities and 14 injuries. Understanding the impact of this deadly driving infraction is critical to reducing the fatalities and injuries associated with it.

The National Transportation Safety Board states that the following countermeasures are imperative to increasing safety:

  • Reduce substance-impaired driving
  • Pay closer attention to the old age of drivers
  • Better the pavement markings and signage on highways
  • Perfect the ramp designs and interchange areas on highways
  • Increase the existence of wrong-way monitoring programs

While there is certainly a long way to go to fix the issues of wrong-way driving, paying attention to the most important factors will play a role in raising awareness and deterring dangerous driving acts.

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Car Safety Tips for Driving Near Motorcycles

Car drivers often complain about the frightening nature of a motorcyclist quickly passing by. Florida ranks amongst the highest traffic accidents involving motorcycles. While a number of factors contribute to this statistic, the fact is that motorcyclists in Florida are abundant and it is important for all motorists to understand the safest ways to share the road with them. Over 1.2 million motor vehicle collisions occur annually throughout the world. In Florida, it is important for all drivers and motorcyclists to learn how to best ride along the highways and roadways with one another. Pointing fingers and placing blame is no way to solve the issue. Car drivers think that motorcyclists are reckless and motorcyclists think that car drivers are careless. It’s time to get Florida’s roads a safer place to drive, regardless of who is to blame.

When it comes to car vs. motorcycle crash, the motorcyclist is almost always the greatest sufferer. In fact, as many as 98 percent of motorcycle drivers are injured when they are involved in a crash and half of those suffer serious injuries. The following are the most important safety tips for car drivers navigating the roadways in close proximity to motorcyclists:

  • Never follow closely behind a motorcyclist, they can  maneuver far easier than a car driver and being too close behind them increases the likelihood of a crash
  • Almost double check the road before changing lanes or turning at an intersection, motorcycles move quickly and are often in a blind spot so be sure to look out for them before making any moves (particularly during highway travel)
  • Be aware of a motorcyclist quickly changing positions as they react to road hazards differently than a vehicle does, be sure to stay on the lookout for these quick roadway maneuvers
  • Give motorcyclists their due respect on the roads and they will do the same – both vehicle drivers and motorcycle riders must be aware of one another at all times to keep the roads safe

Negligence is a contributing factor to far too many motorcycles vs. car collisions. Use turning signals, always look twice before changing lanes or turning at an intersection, and always assume that the driver most near you does not know what you are about to do. Assuming that the motorists in close proximity “just know” is the quickest way to suffer a crash. Keep your focus on the roadways and help play a role in making Florida’s roads a safer place to drive.

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Pop Culture’s Influence on Teen Drinking

One of the biggest public health problems in the United States today is underage drinking. While there are many notable issues amongst America’s youth, alcohol is the most used and abused drug of choice today, beating out both tobacco and illicit drugs. Teen drinking is responsible for over 4,300 deaths each year, making it one of the most pressing problems that must be dealt with right away. Even worse, over 90 percent of alcohol consumption in teens comes in the form of binge drinking. Much like the push to get teens to stop smoking tobacco, the general public is now tasked with the pressure to change the way teens look at alcohol. Unfortunately, a number of elements are working against the push to decrease alcohol consumption for underage youth. Most notably, pop culture is playing a scary role in advocating underage drinking.

A recent study from the University of Pittsburgh and the Norris Colton Cancer Center outlined some frightening issues regarding America’s youth, binge drinking, and its connection to popular music. Young adults today are heavily influenced by all sorts of things in pop culture; particularly alcohol-brand recognition is their favorite songs. Dr. Brian A. Primack, associate professor of medicine and pediatrics and director of the Program for Research on Media and Health in Pitt’s School of Medicine, stated that “Every year, the average adolescent is exposed to about 3,000 references to alcohol brands while listening to music. It is important that we understand the impact of these references in an age group that can be negatively affected by alcohol consumption.”

Conducting a randomized survey of more than 2,500 Americans in the age range of 15 to 23, the study used a list of popular songs which made mention of specific alcohol brands. Then, the survey participants were asked to say which ones they liked and whether or not they owned them. In addition, the participants were asked to recall the specific brand of alcohol mentioned in the song lyrics. As a result, 59 percent of the participants admitted to consuming at least one alcoholic beverage in their lifetime. These alcohol beverages were either five ounces of wine, 12 ounces of beer, or 1.5 ounces of some kind of hard liquor. Finally, about 18 percent of the teens said that they participated in binge drinking at least once per month and 37 percent admitted to have suffered an injury due to alcohol consumption.

In the end, the survey concluded that those who participated in the study and could accurately identify the brand of alcohol in a song, were twice as likely to have consumed a complete drink. These teens were found to be much more likely to binge drink compared to those teens that could not identify an alcohol brand. Dr. Primack concluded, “A surprising result of our analysis was that the association between recalling alcohol brands in popular music and alcohol drinking in adolescents was as strong as the influence of parental and peer drinking and an adolescent’s tendency toward sensation-seeking. This may illustrate the value that this age group places on the perceived opinions and actions of music stars.”

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Florida Drivers Must Pay Attention to Their License Plates

Most people probably pay little attention to their license plate. As long as it is displayed with a current registration sticker, the majority of Florida drivers believe that they are okay. A recent investigation, however, proved that most Florida motorists are actually in violation of Florida law. From a brief study, is seems as though more than half of all Florida drivers are currently breaking the law due to a license plate trim that covers a portion of the plate. Many license plates covers display a sports team name or an organization that the driver belongs to or even the dealership from which the vehicle was purchased. While these make for a pretty appearance on the vehicle, they are against Florida law if they are covering the plate.

The Florida law violation is in statute 320.061 which states, “A person may not apply or attach a substance, coating, covering, or other material onto or around any license plate which interferes with any feature or detail on the license plate.” Below is a recap of the study from Orange County’s Local 6 news station:

Fines vary in different Florida counties, some reaching over $100 for violators. Unfortunately, stores and online stores that sell license plate covers rarely, if ever, warn the purchaser that the plate cover is in violation of the law. As such, it is important for all Florida drivers to be aware of the law and purchase a license plate cover accordingly. Since this violation is a first offense, law enforcement can pull over violators immediately, unlike something like a seat belt violation which is a second offense.

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“Redneck Road Rage/Instant Karma” Video Causes Internet Frenzy

Aggressive driving, often referred to as “road rage”, is the cause of a substantial amount of the 6.8 million auto accidents that occur in the United States each year, according to reports from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). Tailgating is noted as one of the top causes of motor vehicle collisions and contributes to up to one-third of all traffic crashes. While it could be debated which of the two are more dangerous, both road rage and tailgating are forms of aggressive driving that are incredibly hazardous to the highways and roadways throughout the nation. In Florida, tailgating is particularly prevalent. Drivers grow frustrated with slow speeds on the highway and follow far too closely to the car in front of them. A YouTube video posted by the pseudonym “Florida Driver” brought attention to both of these issues.

Tailgating and road rage are certainly amongst the issues in this video. The driver drove way too close to “Florida Driver” and grew frustrated after a few minutes, speeding by while giving her the middle finger, and then lost control of his vehicle due to his rage. These driving habits are reckless and dangerous. The video was published on March 26, 2014, just one week ago, and already has over 10.6 million views. What is it about this video that has caused such popularity? Some would say that the reckless driving and tailgating are most notable. Others, however, were incredibly disturbed by the reaction that “Florida Driver” had upon seeing the auto accident.

When the truck lost control and then hits the median, “Florida Driver” begins to laugh as she yells, “That’s what you get. All on video, buddy.” To date, the YouTube video has seen a vast array of opinions on the comment box. Many people agree with “Florida Driver”. They can recall times that a tailgater has made them feel nervous and uncomfortable while driving. Other people have a strong opinion the other way, noting that no motor vehicle collision is funny. Regardless of who these comments support, “Florida Driver” briefly chose to disable the comment feature due to the negative responses.

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Florida amongst Six States in “Staying Alive on I-75” Initiative

The Florida Highway Patrol is cracking down on Interstate 75 in the hopes to reduce the growing number of injuries and fatalities linked to distracted driving car accidents. Anyone who drove along I-75 over the last couple days probably noticed a vast increase in the number of patrol vehicles on the highway and it is all a part of the “Staying Alive on 75” campaign. Florida joined another five states in an effort to crack down on distracted drivers traveling along the highway. The main objective of the campaign: limit the number of fatalities taking place on this highway. Interstate 75 stretches 1,800 miles and police and highway patrol was out in full force in their attempt to prevent traffic deaths. Additional states participating in the initiative are Michigan, Kentucky, Ohio, Tennessee, and Georgia.

“Staying Alive on 75” took place throughout the past three days, concluding last night. This effort will mark the first of several weekends planned where increased patrol will be looking for distracted drivers. There are a variety of driving infractions and general traffic rules that patrols are focused on, most notably:

  • Speeding
  • Aggressive driving
  • Commercial vehicle safety
  • Seat belt use

Troopers were out in full force to make a statement and hopefully warn all Florida motorists that this is serious business. A weekend during each quarter throughout 2014 will be focused on driver safety from a number of different capacities. For instance, the next “Staying Alive on 75” weekend may concentrate on targeting drivers who are impaired. Florida, as well as the other states involved, hope to see a big difference in the number of traffic fatalities occurring on I-75.

NBC-2.com WBBH News for Fort Myers, Cape Coral

One of the Florida Highway Patrol’s spokesmen, Lt. Greg Bueno, stated “It’s a public awareness campaign; it’s a public education campaign. We want to make sure the public and motorists understand the importance of driving safely.” He went on to say, “Distracted driving isn’t just being on the phone. It’s eating, it’s engaging in intensive argument, it’s having your mind on work.”

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Warm Weather Brings Boating Dangers in South Florida

The list of perks associated with living in South Florida could go on and on, most notably are perks related to water and boating activities. The weather is getting more beautiful with each passing day and with the arrival of the spring season comes a massive flood of people to the waterways, inlets, and beaches along Florida’s coasts. The Jupiter Inlet, Lake Worth inlet, and Boynton Inlet are amongst the most popular in Palm Beach County. Peanut Island, a hotspot for young adults each spring break and summer break offers a wide range of dangers on a number of levels. From the intense consumption of alcoholic beverages to the reckless boating, spending a day out on the water packs far more danger than one would imagine.

Staying safe whether traveling on a boat or simply spending the day on the beach is easy, but only if planning is involved. Far too many teens jump into the water head first, no pun intended, without really thinking about the consequences of their reckless actions on a boat or swimming in the ocean. First and foremost, all Florida beach-goers must understand the flag warning system:

  • Red flag + no swimming symbol: this means that the water is not open to the public
  • Red flag only: this means that strong currents make the waters a hazardous place to swim
  • Yellow flag: this means the moderate currents make the waters a medium hazard
  • Green flag: this means that the ocean conditions are calm, but caution should still be exercised
  • Purple flag: this indicates that harmful marine life may be present in the waters

In South Florida, things like tropical storms can arrive at a moment’s notice. As such, being alert and aware is essential to staying safe on a boat or in the ocean. Additionally, alcohol plays a major role in keeping everyone safe during the spring and summer months. When beachgoers, boat drivers, and casual island hoppers are intoxicated they are unable to make safe, smart decisions. Therefore, it is important to limit alcohol consumption (if over 21 years of age) in order to remain safe.

Finally, a buddy system is a general rule for any activity involving water. Looking out for the people that you are swimming with is the best way to ensure that all persons are accounted for and safe. Remember, if you see a person in trouble in the water, you must yell for help from a lifeguard or dial 911. Attempting to save someone from drowning typically endangers both parties. Always look for a lifeguard to come to the rescue.

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Motorcycle Safety Important for U.S. Air Force Academy

Motorcycle accidents are incredibly dangerous. From a lack of vehicle protection to the typically high speeds in which motorcycles travel, any type of crash between a motor vehicle and a motorcycle has potential to be deadly. According to Lt.Gen. Michelle D. Johnson, “There is no such thing as a minor collision between an automobile and a motorcycle”. Many would ask why a Lieutenant General from the U.S. Air Force Academy would have an opinion on motorcycle accidents; nevertheless the reason may shock you. Recent reports indicate that the top cause of death for U.S. Air Force members is motorcycle crashes. As such, motorcycle safety has become a top priority for the U.S. Air Force and the nation as a whole should take notice.

A brief recap of the motorcycle accident numbers in the U.S. Air Force Academy reveals that a mere 10 percent of active duty force members are motorcyclists, however, they represent an estimated 40 percent of all fatal crashes. Additionally, the Academy has recorded 12 motorcycle accidents since 1990. For many, these statistics are notably surprising. Many would think that if any group of individuals would be able to handle the dangers linked to motorcycle riding it would be members for the U.S. Air Force Academy. As such, these numbers speak to the vast hazards associated with riding a motorcycle.

Motorcycle safety measures must be taken from every end of the spectrum, even in the Air Force. Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson also wrote, “even if you are not a rider, each of us has a role in motorcycle safety”. In the Air Force, this means that Commanders, Supervisors, and Riders must all play an active role in promoting motorcycle awareness and safety measures. All military members are required by Air Force policy to complete a motorcycle safety course. While a national law has yet to be instituted for civilians, it is highly encouraged that anyone planning on operating a motorcycle enroll in a safety class.

All in all, motorcycle safety still has a long way to go. From education to awareness, making sure that all of those operating a vehicle on the roadways are in tune with motorcycles around them is a great first step. Lt. Gen. Michelle D. Johnson said it best as she stated, “No activity is without risk. With proper training, preparation and decision-making, we can reduce those risks. Identify, assess and manage the risks — on every ride and at all times. Remember, a safe ride is a great ride!”

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Teens Don’t Understand What Texting While Driving Means

Liberty Mutual Insurance and Students Against Destructive Driving (SADD) teamed up to administer a survey amongst American teens to determine the current level of “safe driving” throughout the nation. The survey results, while encouraging in some respect, were a serious wake up call for many, as the survey highlighted the vast disconnect between teens’ behind the wheel activities and their ability to recognize dangerous driving actions. First and foremost, it is important to note that teens understand that texting while driving or drinking and driving are both very risky and life-threatening acts – and that is a good thing. Unfortunately, however, upon further investigation the survey revealed that while this is generally understood amongst the teen driving population, the definitions of these potentially fatal behaviors is frighteningly misunderstood.

The survey focused on the following core elements:

  • Texting while driving
  • Drinking while driving
  • The use of a designated driver

The survey revealed that while these teens are able to recognize the risk of these actions, there is a massive disconnection between what is safe and what they admit to doing behind the wheel. For starters, nearly 96 percent of the teens who participated in the survey acknowledged that talking or texting on a cell phone while driving is distracting. The mentioned disconnect comes in when they choose to text. Not only did almost 86 percent of these teens admit to using a cellular device while behind the wheel, but close to half of them who said they never text while driving admitted to texting while at a stop sign or red light. Sending a text while behind the wheel, whether a car is in motion or not, is incredibly dangerous. Clearly, teens need to be further educated on this point.

Next, when it comes to the presence of alcohol and automobiles, these teens surveyed have even further issues with definitions. Most notably was the definition of a “designated driver”. The teens surveyed really view the term “designated driver” as the least impaired driver or the most sober person at a party. These lax definitions of designated drivers account for the growing numbers of fatal teen driving accidents when alcohol is involved. Parents of teens today must play an active role in differentiating an actual designated driver with the “least impaired person at a party”. The “most sober” person at a teenage gathering is never permitted to operate a vehicle. The issue of drinking and driving is another topic that teens need to be educated on in order to prevent future drinking and driving teen deaths.

The SADD and Liberty Mutual Insurance survey was an excellent way to take the temperature on the current notion about texting and driving as well as drinking and driving in teens. While it is certainly encouraging to hear that these teens are aware, parents must do a better job of clarifying definitions to keep our teens safe on the roads.

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