By RICHARD DYMOND
MANATEE -- While driving to his own "Supper With The Sheriff" event Thursday, Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube and his wife, Debbie, came upon a woman using both thumbs to text while driving.
Florida has a "no text" law now, but officers of the law, like Steube, must stop a motorist for another infraction before they can give a texting ticket.
"I couldn't quite get close enough to roll down my window," Steube told the crowd of 300 who attended his event, which is designed to give citizens an opportunity twice a year to discuss issues of mutual concern with the sheriff at the Police Athletic League cafeteria on 13th Avenue East.
Had he caught up to the texting woman, Steube indicated he would have just stuck his face out the window a bit and smiled cartoon big as if to say, "Maybe the sight of this familiar face will get you to stop texting."
Steube's anecdote about texting followed a question from the audience as to how many tickets the Manatee County Sheriff's Office has written for texting.
Steube's answer was seven.
"But I think the new texting law is a great step forward and maybe eventually the Florida Legislature will allow us to call it when we
see it," Steube said.
Texting was one of several citizen issues that came up during the supper, which cost $3 and featured lasagna, fresh rolls, salad and home made cookies, all made at the Manatee County jail by staff and inmates.
Capt. Todd Shear of the sheriff's Child Protection Division gave startling facts concerning infant deaths in Manatee County and Lt. Kathryn Estabrook of the sheriff's Crime Prevention Section gave tips on how to be safe during the upcoming Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber-Monday, all connected to high volume shopping.
Shear said that suffocation or strangulation causes more infant deaths in Florida than drowning, poisoning, homicide or traffic crashes.
The problem stems from parents thinking that sleeping with infants or putting soft bedding in their sleep areas is good for them, Shear said.
"An infant's neck muscles are weak and if they are placed face down on soft bedding or stuffed animals they can suffocate," Shear said.
In Manatee County between 2006 and 2012 there were 26 preventable infant deaths due to suffocation brought about by parents either sleeping with infants or placing them in soft bedding, Shear said.
"Suffocation and strangulation in an adult bed is the leading cause of injury-related deaths for Florida infants younger than age 1," Shear said.
There have been cases of fathers holding babies in their thick arms and falling asleep only to awake to a cold, lifeless infant, Shear added.
"The infant can't move his or her neck enough to get air," Shear said.
Shear also said that babies should always sleep on their backs on a firm sleep surface, with soft objects and loose bedding kept out of the crib.
Estabrook told the crowd to stay alert during holiday shopping.
"Remember, you are out shopping for gifts and the thieves are out shopping for you," Estabrook said.
She cautioned the crowd to not put empty merchandise boxes by the curb, to lock the car and to only buy on line from secure sites.
Among the more interesting questions that Steube answered was one as to whether there is an ordinance prohibiting people from rummaging through your trash put out on the curb.
"If you put it out on your curb, it's fair game," Steube answered.
Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.