By Francisco Alvarado
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
With the New York Times taking a keen interest in Sen. Marco Rubio’s driving record last week, it’s only fair to gauge how the presidential candidate’s traffic violation history compares to the rest of Florida’s congressional delegation.
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting researched driving records for all 29 of Florida’s congressional representatives in their home counties, where they are more likely to get behind the wheel. Turns out Rubio — who has received four tickets since 1997 — is the not the worst traffic scofflaw representing Floridians on Capitol Hill.
That distinction goes to freshman U.S. Rep. Carlos Curbelo, who’s racked up nine traffic citations since 2002, according to a review of Miami-Dade County traffic court dockets. Curbelo was last ticketed on July 15, 2014, for failing to yield at a stop sign. He was represented by Randy Maultasch, president of the Ticket Defense Law Firm, and the case was dismissed on Sept. 3, 2014, because the officer wrote the wrong statute on the ticket.
Curbelo, a Republican from South Miami-Dade, did not respond to requests for comment via his spokesman Alex Cisneros.
Maultasch represented Curbelo on four of his other tickets. Two infractions, one for failing to obey a stop sign in 2008 and a second for speeding in 2003, were dismissed. The congressman pleaded no contest on the other two tickets; one for running a stop sign in 2008 and another for speeding in 2007.
In the four traffic cases in which Curbelo was not represented by a lawyer, two — one in 2013 for driving with an expired registration and another in 2003 for failing to obey a red light— were dismissed. He pleaded no contest in 2005 to driving 70 miles per hour in a 55 mile per hour zone, as well as in 2004 for crossing private property to avoid a traffic light.
Curbelo has paid a total of $629 in fines and completed 16 hours of traffic school in the four cases he pleaded no contest.
Following Curbelo and Rubio is U.S. Rep. Alan Grayson, an Orlando Democrat who’s been ticketed three times, according to Orange County traffic court dockets. In 2012, he was cited for a red light traffic infraction. Grayson elected to go to traffic school and paid a $265.99 fine. Seven years earlier, Grayson was ticketed for unlawful speeding in April and careless driving in May. He pleaded no contest to both infractions, went to traffic school and paid more than $200 in fines.
Grayson spokesman Ken Scudder said there was nothing unusual or alarming about the congressman’s driving record. “More than one out of every five drivers receives a traffic citation each year, so Congressman Grayson’s driving record is typical,” Scudder said. “He recognized that he could become a better driver by taking the refresher classes in 2005 and 2012, so he did so.”
Last year, local and state law enforcement agencies issued more than 2 million non-criminal moving violations (which includes speeding, careless driving, and running stop signs), or 8 percent less than in 2013, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Per capita, 161 out of 1,000 licensed drivers got a ticket in 2014.
Miami’s U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Lakeland’s U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross are tied for fourth with two tickets each on their driving records in their home counties.
In 2013, Ros-Lehtinen was cited for careless driving, but the ticket was dismissed. She was represented by Alex Hanna, a Miami attorney specializing in traffic cases who also defended one of Rubio’s infractions. According to figures by the state motor vehicles department, 69 percent of the 45,352 careless driving tickets issued in Miami-Dade in 2013 were dismissed.
In 2010, Ros-Lehtinen received a speeding ticket for going 81 miles per hour in a 60 mile per hour zone. She paid a $319 fine and completed a four-hour traffic course. The congresswoman did not respond to a request for comment via her spokesman Keith Fernandez.
Ross was cited for unlawful speeding and failure to display his vehicle’s registration on Jan. 18, 2013, according to Polk County traffic court dockets. He paid a $254 fine.
U.S. Reps. Gwen Graham (Leon County), Ron deSantis (St. John’s County) and David Wilson Jolly (Pinellas County) have each been ticketed once for speeding, according to traffic court dockets. They have no other traffic infractions in their home counties.
FCIR did not find any traffic violations in their home counties for U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and U.S. Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Corrine Brown, Kathy Castor, Vernon Buchanan, Frederica Wilson, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, Mario Diaz-Balart, William Posey, Jeff Miller, Ander Crenshaw, , John Mica, Daniel Webster, Ted Yoho, Rich Nugent, Patrick Murphy,Tom Rooney, Curt Clawson, Alcee Hastings, Ted Deutch, and Lois Frankel.
FCIR will update this story if members of the congressional delegation respond.