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Government Gone Wild: Law Against Distractions Coming to Florida?

Senator Nancy Detert (FL- District 23)

Florida is known for doing things that make no sense like putting the treatment of pigs in the state Constitution. Well lawmakers are not immune to this senselessness. Case in point: regulating distractions.

Distraction is defined as, “The act of distracting or the condition of being distracted.”

Senator Nancy Detert (FL- District 23) is on a quest to make it illegal for Floridians to be distracted by “electronic devices” while driving, bicycling or walking. Senator Detert has been on this quest for five years. No, Detert is not a Democrat, rather she is a Republican. The primary donor for her election to the Florida Senate was the Florida Republican Party. You get what you pay for as the saying goes.

The bill is the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law” (SB 52) and states:

A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data in such a device for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any device that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. A motor vehicle that is legally parked is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.

 The bill exempts government employees for doing these things in the performance of their official duties. It also has a number of exemptions such as “Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.” These exemptions make the legislation both impossible to enforce and difficult to understand by citizens.

The bill is not about reducing distractions it is about control and expanding government intrusion into one of the last bastions of individual privacy – our vehicles.

Vehicles, like homes, in Florida are subject to the castle doctrine. In Florida a person’s home and vehicle are considered sacrosanct and may be defended. Florida statute defines “vehicle” as a conveyance of any kind, whether or not motorized, which is designed to transport people or property.” Is this legislation a back door method of weakening the castle doctrine?

The more government intrudes into our castles, the more control it has over our personal  lives.

What behaviors will be added to future iterations of this legislation should it be passed? While driving is  a child in the back seat, a women putting on makeup or a passenger texting distractions? Will medical conditions, like dementia, be characterized as a distraction? Vehicles are becoming more sophisticated and in some cases turning into home entertainment centers complete with high speed internet connections, movie screens and surround sound. People are capable of multi-tasking. If a person has an accident, what ever the cause, it is bad and that person will pay for their negligence. That is how it works.

Laws against distraction are a distraction. Florida has many more pressing issues to deal with than this.

Martin Luther King Jr. said, “Morality cannot be legislated but behavior can be regulated. Judicial decrees may not change the heart, but they can restrain the heartless.” Would Dr. King define texting as heartless or just a distraction?

Dr. Richard Swier

Dr. Rich Swier is Publisher of www.DrRichSwier e-Magazine. Twitter: @drrichswier He holds a Doctorate of Education from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, CA, a Master's Degree in Management Information Systems from the George Washington University, Washington, D.C., and a Bachelor's Degree in Fine Arts from Washington University, St. Louis, MO. Richard is a 23-year Army veteran who retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in 1990. He was awarded the Legion of Merit for his years of service.

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