At the beginning of this legislative session, banning texting while driving seemed to be one of the agenda items that had strong backing from local media, and was drawing a lot of attention. Two bills, Matt Ramsey’s HB 23 which passed the House last year and was working itself through the Senate by John Douglas. Similarly, Amos Anderson’s HB 994 made some progress in the house, but has since stalled. The members of the general assembly seem to be having difficulty deciding what exactly is “texting”. Does it include emailing? Working a GPS? Even dialing a phone?
If they were already having difficulty defining distracted driving, Megan Mariah Barnes has added one other item that they may want to consider as “distracted driving”:
Florida Highway Patrol troopers say a two-vehicle crash Tuesday at Mile Marker 21 on Cudjoe Key was caused by a 37-year-old woman driver who was shaving her bikini area while her ex-husband took the wheel from the passenger seat.
“She said she was meeting her boyfriend in Key West and wanted to be ready for the visit,” Trooper Gary Dunick said. “If I wasn’t there, I wouldn’t have believed it. About 10 years ago I stopped a guy in the exact same spot … who had three or four syringes sticking out of his arm. It was just surreal and I thought, ‘Nothing will ever beat this.’ Well, this takes it.”
So, what was the point of this post (it was in Florida, after all) than to bring a certain Jerry Springer element to Peach Pundit today? Well, I’m not a huge fan of texting while driving bans, because they are generally unenforceable even if you can decide what is texting, vs IMing, vs. pinging, vs. mind melding. Plus, there are many things that shouldn’t be done while driving, apparently now including Brazilian waxes. But they are usually only an issue after an accident.
But back to enforcement. Many traffic laws go unenforced already. Adding another item to the mix will likely not affect folks like Ms. Barnes.
If that weren’t enough, Megan Mariah Barnes was not supposed to be driving and her 1995 Ford Thunderbird was not supposed to be on the road.
The day before the wreck, Barnes was convicted in an Upper Keys court of DUI with a prior and driving with a suspended license, said Monroe County Assistant State Attorney Colleen Dunne. Barnes was ordered to impound her car, and her driver’s license was revoked for five years, after which time she must have a Breathalyzer ignition interlock device on any vehicle she drives, Dunne said. Barnes also was sentenced to nine months’ probation.
The reason we’re focused on “texting” instead of distracted driving is because a texting ban is “for the children”. Let’s get serious about being able to enforce laws already on the books, get unsafe drivers off the road, then attack a more broad base of “distracted” drivers if absolutely necessary.
If we choose to narrowly focus on young’ens texting while driving, what will we tell the children when they’re run over by a crystal meth tweaker shaving her hoo-ha? And what does it matter what we tell them if we can only penalize the infraction after someone has already been injured or killed?
Make these bills enforceable and sufficiently broad, or let them die.
H/T to my lovely sister who loves to email me the news of the weird, and to Jason Pye for deets on the bills listed above.
UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that some may confuse the hypothetical crystal meth tweeker in my next to last paragraph above with Ms. Barnes, and that I may be disparaging her character with such a reference. Please let me be clear: I in no way wished to imply that Ms. Barnes is a crystal meth tweeker. Sure, she may have had a DUI, was willing to drive on a supsended license, declined to surrender her car to impound as required by court order, and didn’t install the breath ignition lock as required on any car she operates in the future. But I didn’t not in any way wish to malign the character of this mobile hoo-ha shaving lady by suggesting that she may be a crystal meth tweeker. If anyone drew that conclusion, I sincerely apologize.