Wednesday, January 17, 2018
Politics

Some say texting-while-driving bill doesn't do enough

A ban on texting while driving appears to be gaining favor in the Legislature, but those who have lost loved ones to texting accidents say the bill is too weak.

"This law is really not a step in the right direction. It's a crawl," said Elissa Schee, whose 13-year-old daughter died in a distracted-driving crash in Marion County in 2008. "I guess before we can walk, we have to crawl."

Schee said the ban should carry more severe penalties.

The bill passed the Florida Senate unanimously Tuesday but could encounter more opposition in the House, where it has bogged down in recent years.

The bill calls for a $30 fine for texting while driving. It would be considered a secondary offense, meaning motorists would be ticketed only if stopped for another offense such as careless driving.

A second offense would carry a fine of $60 with possible points on a driver's license.

Texting at red lights would still be allowed.

Many advocates for a ban complain that the proposal is too lax to change motorists' behavior.

"It's like having nothing," said Steve Augello, a Spring Hill resident whose daughter was killed in a 2008 texting crash.

He said the bill is unlikely to deter texting while driving.

Schee agreed.

"A $30 fine is not a deterrent" she said. "It's not even in line with a parking ticket."

But others say the proposal is another important first step in addressing a major problem.

"This is absolutely wonderful to hear that it's gotten this far," said Lisa Duffner, a Ruskin resident whose toddler son was killed in a texting crash in 1999. "You've got to start somewhere."

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