I’ve written two blog articles on the subject of Florida’s dumb law allowing “any person” to anonymously report you or me as an “impaired drivers”. Perhaps the worst part of this dumb law is that even if it can be proven the report was unfounded and had malicious intent, the informer is indemnified from all civil or criminal liability. Why am I writing a third column on this subject? It’s because the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel published a headline article in its Sunday, 10-23-11, edition supporting this law and the AP picked up the story, a release of which was published in the Monday, 10-24-11 edition of the Palm Beach Post and many other newspapers nationwide. I suspect that these articles were the result of press releases by the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle department, FHSMV, who enforces this dumb law. You can read the article by clicking on the link, www.FHSMVDumbLawArticle.com
I’m asking you to sign an electronic petition to change this law to remove the anonymity and “hold harmless” sections. Please click on www.DumbLaw.org. Below, I’ve addressed various omissions, misunderstandings, and distortions of the article from the Sun Sentinel. I’m sure that when you’ve read both the article and my comments you will agree that this law needs to be changed.
(1) It acknowledges that “most of the drivers lost their privileges because they didn’t submit detailed medical information requested by the state to show they are still able to drive.” What they don’t do is drill down and ask the question, WHY don’t drivers submit their medical information? Is it always because they know for certain that the medical information would have resulted in a license suspension? Or is it often because they are simply afraid and unsure? My personal situation is a good example. When I first got the letter from the FHSMV, I was concerned that I might fail a hearing test. I’m a former hunter and I have high frequency hearing loss in my left ear. It wasn’t until I read the Florida Driver’s Handbook that I discovered that a driver’s license cannot be revoked for being hard of hearing or even deaf. Supposing I had been too afraid to take a hearing test and chose not to respond to the letter with the following reasoning…If I drive carefully, the odds are 99.9% that I will never be stopped by a policeman and asked to show my driver’s license? I can probably keep quiet about the letter, keep on driving, and nobody will ever be the wiser. The worst case scenario is I get stopped sometime in the future, and they cite me for driving with a suspended license. I claim that I never got the letter asking me to take the test which was sent by regular mail, not certified. I’ve had the benefit of years of driving that I would otherwise have lost and I can, even then, agree to take the test and hope I pass it. The alternative to this is to respond immediately and risk taking the test and losing my driver’s license. Think for a minute about how terrifying it is to lose your right to drive a car in Florida. During this Great Recession it was shown that many people choose to have their home foreclosed on rather than their car repossessed. Keeping their car allows them to get to drive to work ,the doctor, the pharmacy, the grocery store, etc. and continue with their lives. They can sleep and live in their car which is a hardship, but at least they can still have a life.
(2) The article acknowledges that this is a “little-known law”. But this front page article and other recent media attention will soon make this a “well-known law”. Up until now only 11% of anonymous informants have been non professionals (regular people, not doctors and police). What will happen when every “person” which is the other category specified in the law who can make an anonymous report learns of this law? What happens when angry neighbors, divorce litigants, estranged spouses, political opponents, jilted lovers, disgruntled and fired employees, business competitors, pranksters and sociopaths (Psychologists say that 1% of the population are born sociopaths and 10% more become so because of their environment) learn about this perfect tool for revenge on somebody they don’t like?
(3) The article points out that 42% of anonymous informants are cops. Several questions occur to me that the media has left unanswered. Why would a policeman waste the time of filing a report to the FHSMV instead of taking immediate action to remove an impaired driver from the roads? Police take drunk drivers off the road immediately, why not legally blind drivers? Why does a cop want to remain anonymous and immune from civil or criminal liability? The answer to this question might be frightening. A cop isn’t afraid to “look you in the eye” when he gives you a speeding ticket, makes you take a breathalyzer or blood alcohol test, and cites you for DUI. He’s not anonymous and he faces civil and criminal liability if he carelessly and/or maliciously does any of these things. Unfortunately in our society, instances of police brutality, sexual harassment, and other police abuses of power are not uncommon. Some police forces are requiring video cameras be placed on squad cars and even then, we’re discovering cops who take advantage of civilians because they have the power to do so. Is it so farfetched to think that a cop who has been “smarted off to” by a traffic offender might get even with him by reporting him as impaired driver…especially since he remains anonymous and is immunized from all civil or criminal liability? When a cop or doctor makes the anonymous complaint, there is no investigation of the complaint as there is if a non professional is the informant. The person reported is ordered to immediately take driving, written, eye, and hearing tests. In my personal situation, I suspect a policeman as being the anonymous informant. Of course I can’t prove it and, if I could, I could take no action against him. My reasons for my suspicion are that I was ticketed for speeding while driving in the right hand (slow) lane while cars passed me on the left. The cop was annoyed at me because I didn’t pull over right away. I didn’t pull over immediately because there was no safe place to pull over and I was driving with the windows up and while conversing on my cell phone and simply didn’t notice him at first. I got the letter from the FHSMV in the mail a couple of weeks after I was ticketed. At this time I learned that this policeman was married to an ex employee of mine that I had fired and who subsequently sued me for firing her. I’m not just a good driver; I’m an excellent driver with 20-20 vision, adequate hearing, fast reflexes, and a sharp mind. I’ve never had a traffic accident but I admit that I do drive slightly over the speed limit as do most drivers. Whoever reported me clearly did it for malicious reasons.
(4) The AARP in the past has opposed age based additional road testing for drivers according to this article. I have some contacts in Tallahassee that spoke to me off the record Legislators tried to get age based testing into the law but AARP stopped this dead in its tracks. However, the FHSMV is proceeding to do this in spite of it not being in the law. They have taken it upon themselves to send out letters to all of those seniors who have reached 70 who have also not renewed their license in person in the past 5 years. They have renewed by mail on online. In my opinion, if this is true, it is a serious violation of the law by a state agency.
If you agree with me, please click on www.DumbLaw.org and sign my petition.