Monday, February 04, 2008

Putting the DUH back in Florida again...

Welcome to Florida where every vote counts and you take your life in your hands (or those of the nonagenarian drivers) every time you take to the road.

Before I get into my little rant, let me say that I love Florida and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else (after living elsewhere, I might add). I was born here and I'm proud to be a native of the Sunshine State (East).

Here are some interesting tidbits about Florida:

  • There were 576 pedestrian fatalities in 2005

  • There were 3,533 traffic fatalities (including those above) in 2005

  • Accident statistics from the Florida Department of Motor Vehicles show that people 85 and older are the second most dangerous drivers, after teen-agers.

  • Motorcyclists aren't required to wear helmets OR carry insurance

  • According to, Florida was ranked #11 in both 1991 AND 1995 for insurance expenditure per 1 vehicle on average

  • Children 4 and over need not ride in a carseat/booster seat of any kind

  • Persons over 16 need not wear a seatbelt in the back seat

How does that fit with the title of this post? I'll tell you.

Florida is a "No Fault" state when it comes to insurance. And this drives the average insurance rate UP for those of us who drive the speed limit, don't take chances, don't drink and drive and obey all the laws. You know, us SAFE drivers. The Florida Legislature recently repealed No Fault and before you could say AFLAC!, they put it back in place.

Let's look at what this means in light of the statistics above:

Motorcyclists don't have to wear helmets, nor do they have to have insurance coverage. You get in an accident - even if THEY CAUSED IT - and your insurance pays out. And your rates get jacked even if you were the wronged party.

Elderly people shouldn't be driving. Statistically, they cause accidents which - again - drive up insurance costs for EVERYONE. And does Florida have any laws about yanking their license when they are too senile to drive? NO. Hell to the no. They DO require an eye exam though. Both my grandmothers live in Florida - a few blocks away from me, actually. Both of them recently lost their cars to their respective children due to their inability to drive SAFELY.

Grandma (the alcoholic one with dementia who has been known to drink and drive) had her license renewed by the DMV even though she's frail and can't really get out of her own way when she put on the "waterworks" for the clerk behind the desk. My aunt (her daughter) was SURE they weren't going to renew her. She prayed they wouldn't. But they did. The straw that broke the camel's back was grandma getting lost for a half a day after leaving my aunt's house and heading to her retirement high-rise 1 mile away.

Nana (sweet but lacking in reflexes) has been a poor driver for 20 years. She's gotten so frail of late that my parents confiscated her car (in the nicest possible way) and chauffeur her around whenever she needs to go anywhere. She's been having little incidents with mailboxes and whatnot for the longest time but still kept getting her license renewed.

Both the grandmothers will not be getting their licenses renewed on the next round - unless they decide to go online and do so without their children knowing... And they could. I renew my license from the comfort of my home office while in my PJs, secure in the knowledge that I don't have to show up for an eye exam or get a new (horrible) picture. And it only costs 50 cents extra.

Add to this the fact that the No Fault laws here make it such that any time you have an incident with your car, YOUR insurance has to pay out (rather than making the at-fault party pay), everyone is paying for the drivers who shouldn't be on the road.

Here's the solution:

All drivers over 70 need to be signed off on by their doctor when they renew their license. If the doctor says they are capable and that person causes an accident, the doctor needs to be help accountable. Renewals should happen Every Year.

All drivers with a handicapped placard need to present a doctor's statement that they are capable of operating a motor vehicle safely.

All motorcyclists would be REQUIRED to wear a helmet AND carry a minimum amount of liability insurance.

Abolish No Fault. Everyone pays for what they cause. Safe drivers get credits for being good drivers.

Raise the drivers license age to 18 from 16 at a MINIMUM. My preference is actually 21 but good luck with that.

Require a minimum amount of driver training (40 hours) similar to that required in Germany before granting a driver license.

All children should ride in some form of a child safety seat until they reach 8-10 years old or a decent weight.

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