County supports ban on texting while driving

OKEECHOBEE — Okeechobee County Thursday joined the list of county commissions to support making texting while driving a primary traffic offense.

Currently, law enforcement officers can only cite a driver for texting while driving if the driver is stopped for another offense.

County administrator Robbie Chartier said the fact that Florida has not made texting while driving a primary offense is one reason auto insurance rates are going up.

“Right now our insurance rates are going up, and they are claiming it is because of texting while driving and all of the accidents related to that,” said Mrs. Chartier.

“I spend a lot of time on the road in my other job, and in the last year I have seen a huge difference in unsafe driving and reckless driving going on. I am very sure that it has to do with the distraction of phones,” said Commissioner Kelly Owens.

Texting while driving could result in a crash.

She said she often sees drivers going 70 or 75 mph with their phones out.

She said she thinks drivers will take it more seriously if it is a primary offense which will allow law enforcement officers to pull over drivers who are texting.

David Hazellief proposed tabling the vote until the State Representative Emily Slosberg, District 91, could be present at the meeting, Ms. Slosberg, who has championed making texting while driving a primary offense, was originally scheduled to attend the Aug. 10 meeting, but was not in attendance.

“It’s our only chance to talk to her to voice our concerns on other issues such as homestead exemptions and home rule,” Commissioner Hazellief said.

“It’s not that time-sensitive,” agreed Commissioner Brad Goodbread. He said the legislature will not meet for another six weeks.

Commissioner Byrant Culpepper said he did not want to create an adversarial relationship with the representative.

“What we are doing now in Tallahassee isn’t working,” said Commissioner Hazellief. “We didn’t accomplish anything this year.”

He said they should take every opportunity to voice the county commission’s views with state representatives.

Chairman Terry Burroughs suggested they invite the representatives to come and talk to the board on various issues of concern to Okeechobee County.

“I think that if we look back at Representative Slosberg’s voting record, we might find she does support home rule,” said Commissioner Owens. “I think moving forward with this now is something we should do.”

The board voted unanimously to support the resolution to make texting while driving a primary offense and also to invite the representatives to come to the next meeting.

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