Last May, Mark Merwitzer was riding as a passenger in a car driving across the MacArthur Causeway from Miami to Miami Beach when he noticed something troubling. “ Cars were going about 70 miles per hour and swerving, not maintaining their lanes,” Merwitzer recalled. A little more observation revealed the reason: The drivers were texting on their phones. “It looked incredibly dangerous and very common, unfortunately.” Merwitzer, a junior at the School for Advanced Studies (SAS) at Miami Dade College, decided to do something about it. He began a lobbying campaign that took him all the way to the State Capitol in Tallahassee. Like an already-seasoned politico, Merwitizer started his campaign by building local support for a bill that would restrict texting while driving. He made his case to Miami-Dade County Commissioner Daniella Levine Cava, who represents District 8. Cava offered him an internship on the spot, but she explained that nothing could be done at the county level. Merwitzer would have to appeal to the state Legislature. Working doggedly, Merwitzer spoke to youth groups and municipalities, encouraging them to pass resolutions in support of a law restricting texting and driving. The bill was finally introduced in Tallahassee and made it through two Senate committees, but died in the House. Merwitzer said the bill will be reintroduced in the legislature next year. “Mark is working on a service project that will save lives. Eventually the bill he has lobbied for in the state Legislature will pass and millions of Floridians will owe a huge debt of gratitude to him,” said Dennis P. Linsday, who is the enrollment coordinator at SAS. In the meantime, Merwitzer is entering his senior year and will be submitting his civic-minded project in the Miami Herald’s Silver Knight competition. When asked about a future in politics, Merwitzer demurred pragmatically. “Right now, I am just looking at college. A lot can change in a few years.”
Published by Miami Dade College. View All Articles.