State Rep. Paul Renner vows to help Flagler Palm Coast High School students get texting legislation to Tallahassee.
“I’d like to help you son, but you’re too young to vote,” is a verse in the 1958 Eddie Cochran song, "Summertime Blues," lamenting the lack of power of teenagers.
This was not the case in Diane Tomko’s Community Problem Solving class at Flagler Palm Coast High School on Friday, Dec. 11, when five teenagers, “too young to vote,” had the attention of state Rep. Paul Renner.
Renner had asked to meet with the five teenagers; Isabel Vigil, Ayden Craig, Michael Brown, Ashon Craig, and Jessica Wilcox, to allow them to make their presentation for legislation to create texting and driving laws in Florida. Currently texting while driving is a secondary offence that is only applied if the driver is being pulled over for another reason, like speeding.
“We went to the Flagler County delegation meeting and we spoke there, then we talked to Mr. Chiumento and he set up the meeting,” Isabel said.
The students are aware they have a tough road of committees and meetings ahead of them, and that bills involving texting and driving have been presented and died in committee in the past.
“It’s huge, really huge, to have the support, just from (Michael) Chiumento,” Isabel said. “It’s great to know that we have resources that will help us.”
The students decided to take on the project when they realized little was being done about texting, and phone use, on Florida roads.
Renner was visibly impressed with the PowerPoint presentation, and the statistic that accidents involving texting account for nearly six times those caused by intoxicated drivers. He told the students that he would be co-sponsoring the bill this year.
The teens have received the support from local car dealers, Palm Coast Ford, (which is also displaying their banner), Tom Gibbs Chevrolet, and Flagler Chrysler Dodge. These dealerships have fliers and business cards, supplied by the community problem solving group, to be handed out to their customers.
“It’s good you are rallying people to make this change,” Renner said.
Following the presentation, Renner explained the process, and suggested the students start an email campaign to the House and Senate, and meet with the committees. He told them he would help them navigate the process in Tallahassee.
“Can you give this presentation in two minutes?” he asked.
The students didn’t hesitate -- “yes.”
“Mr. Sims (Dustin Sims, FPC principal) told us he would get a van for us so that we can go,” said Ashton. “We are going to do our best to get it passed.”