Bill would make texting while driving a primary offense in Florida

Legislation Filed That Could Make it Easier for Law Enforcement to Stop Drivers for Texting

Legislation Filed That Could Make it Easier for Law Enforcement to Stop Drivers for Texting by John Lucas | Dec 6 2017

He said approximately 50,000 crashes a year can be attributed to texting while driving. Law enforcement now needs to have another reason to pull drivers over before siting them for distracted driving.

Florida Highway Patrol Spokesperson Kim Motes said Wednesday that troopers see distracted driving all of the time but essentially can't do anything about it. Montes believes even current statistics on the matter likely don't reflect the full picture, because they can't even report distracted driving as the cause of an accident unless they have absolute proof.

She has been advocating for driving safety for months and previously sponsored a bill to make texting while driving a primary offense for drivers 18 and under in school zones, but her fellow lawmakers did not approve the measure.

The state Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported almost 50,000 distracted driving crashes in Florida in 2016, including 233 deaths. "It has reached an epidemic".

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Corcoran predicts it will become law by the end of the legislative session which begins in January.

The four-page bill is HB 33, and it was filed Wednesday morning in the House. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, is making its way through that chamber. Slosberg's father, former Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, led an effort to make violations of the state seat-belt law a primary traffic violation.

If the bill becomes law, Florida would become the 41st state in the country to ban texting and driving. She said the driver can then take the matter to court if they wish to do so.

But he also noted state law already has prohibitions against racial profiling to try to protect minority motorists.

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Corcoran's advocacy of a stronger texting law comes as a broad coalition of groups seeks passage of a law that would make texting a primary offense, similar to speeding or running a red light, subject to higher fines and penalty points on a driver's record that often drive up the cost of insurance.

Upon filing of the bill Speaker Corcoran said, "Texting and driving presents a real, life-threatening danger to Floridians both on and off the road".

The penalty for a first violation is a $30 fine, plus court costs, for a total fine up to $108.

"Really what is at issue is trying to keep our families as safe as possible on the road", Corcoran said. He said while making it a primary offense won't fix the problem overnight, he does think it will make a difference.

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