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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Ban on texting while driving picks up speed in the Senate



A bill that makes texting while driving a non-criminal traffic violation, proposed by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice for the fourth year in a row, was unamiously approved by the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee Wednesday. But much is riding on the outcome of a companion bill sponsored by Representatives Doug Holder and Ray Pilon, both Sarasota Republicans, which will be presented in the House today -- texting while driving legislation has not heard in the House for two years. 

One of several measures on texting while driving this session, Detert's bill was so well-received Wednesday that a long list of supporters from businesses, law enforcement and advocacy groups didn't need to make their case.

Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernadina Beach, wanted to know “how soon can we update the curriculum for kids learning to be new drivers” so that teens "across Florida know immediately this is a no-no and not even think about it.” “As soon as we pass the bill,” Detert answered.

She told the committee Florida is one of five states without any type of ban on texting while driving, pointing out that “according to the Florida Highway Department, they have managed to trace electronic devices to more than 3,700 crashes. Her bill would make texting a secondary offense, which means a driver would have to commit another violation, like weaving, for an officer to take any action. ”While some legislators and advocates have called for tougher restrictions, Detert said the bill  (SB 52) is “not watered down.”

“What I want is for mothers and dads to be able to say ‘Don't forget, don't text while driving, it's against the law,” Detert said. “I can guarantee you none of your children is going to pull down the Florida State statutes and say: "Oh, but it's only a secondary offense. Either we have a law or we don't have a law."

The fine would be $30 for a first-time texting offense, $60 if it occurs again within five years, with a penalty of three points. Since drivers would have to be pulled over first for another offense, they would be given two tickets.

[Last modified: Thursday, March 7, 2013 8:42am]


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