Sunday, January 14, 2018

Guest Post - Mark Merwitzer - an advocate for safe roads - ending distracted driving

The following is another in a ongoing series of guest posts. Student Mark Merwitzer will not be distracted from his mission to save lives through advocating for increasing the safety of those on or near the roadways. Once again, Mark reports of his efforts in Tallahassee.  This is the 6th appearance for Mark on this blog (CLICK HERE) to view all prior posts, all related to his public service and advocacy, including how to navigate a traffic circle as well as fighting against distracted driving: Oct. 25, 2017, Driven (without distractions). YCIB Member Mark Merwitzer testifies before Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee and Aug. 14, 2017: Traffic Circle Safety - Please take the time to view this creative video by Mark Merwitzer, Jackson Ribler & Justin Merwitzer. Edited and produced through the talents of "Miami Hal" Feldman.

From Mark:

My name is Mark Merwitzer. I am a 17-year-old high school student who attends School for Advanced Studies - Wolfson. I am also the chairman of the Palmetto Bay Youth Community Involvement Board. For the last 18 months, I have been working very diligently with local and state legislators to make texting while driving a primary offense in the state of Florida.

To push for this primary ban I have been working extremely closely with Miami-Dade County and other municipalities. By pushing them to pass urgings and hire lobbyist to support this initiative, the Florida legislature has seen a massive push from numerous local governments across Florida. Their voices are strongly considered as they contribute a tremendous amount to the state tax pool.

Debbie Wanninkhof / Mark Merwitzer
With the support of Miami-Dade County and Palmetto Bay, I traveled to Tallahassee with Debbie Wanninkhof.  Debbie and Rik Wanninkhof’s son Patrick died at the age of 25 at the hands of a cell phone distracted driver. He was a son, a brother, a teacher, a musician, a friend and an incredible human being. Patrick got on his bicycle in June of 2015 to ride for and to build affordable housing for those who needed it most. On July 30, 2015, he was killed by a woman who was distracted by her phone while driving. Yet Debbie and Rik turned their grief into something extraordinary. They went up to Tallahassee with me and shared their story with many Representatives and the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee.

With the Wanninkhofs, I had the privilege of testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Subcommittee in support of House Bill 33. House Bill 33 makes texting while driving a primary offense, which gives police officers the ability to pull over and issue citations to drivers who are texting behind the wheel. I have also been pushing Senate Bill 90, the Senate companion bill to House Bill 33, in the Senate Transportation Committee. The bill passed unanimously in both committees.

Rep. Kionne McGhee
In addition to the bill unanimously passing both committees, I had the privilege of meeting with House Minority Leader Designee Kionne McGhee (rhyme not intended). I am very appreciative to have his support and co-sponsorship of House Bill 33. Having the support of democratic leadership further solidifies the bi-partisanship of the bill.

Sen. Annette Taddeo
I also had the honor of meeting the newly elected Senator Annette Taddeo. Senator Taddeo turned the district blue and defeated Jose Felix Diaz (R) after the resignation of Senator Artiles. She sits on the Senate Transportation Committee and is a co-sponsor Senate Bill 90. I am very grateful to have her support.

Sen. Bill Galvano
The Senate Transportation Committee also has Senate President Designee Bill Galvano on it. He voted in support of the texting while driving ban. I am extremely thankful for his vote, as it shows that Senate Leadership is in support of making our roads safer.

If you would like to get involved with the texting while driving bill, please call your State Representative and voice your support for the bill. Additionally, if you can call Representatives that sit on the House Judiciary Committee, which is the next committee of reference, that would also be appreciated. I have linked the House Judiciary Committee and the find your Representative website for your convenience. Thank you very much in advance for your support. Welcome to the team!

House Judiciary:
Find Your Representative:

NOTE: Palmetto Bay is a supporter of traffic safety.  CLICK HERE to view a past Palmetto Bay e-currents (Oct. 2009) explaining past efforts from the original Palmetto Bay council on making our roadways safer for everyone, especially our students. Safe streets have been important from the very first Palmetto Bay council. This is an effort that requires continued vigilance and work to see an idea pass, not just paying lip service. It also takes a Village and Mark Merwitzer has been doing much of the heavy lifting these past few years. Subsequent councils (including this current council) have continued to efforts in regard to making our roads safer. - Thank you to Mark Merwitzer and others like him who are committed to making our communities safer!

(Video below - Mark Merwitzer testifying before the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee in Tallahassee on January 9, 2018. A unanimous vote helped move the bill on to the next step.)

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