Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ban on texting while driving advances in state House

Sickles High sophomore Brenna McTeer, 15, tries to use a cell phone and drive a slalom course during a class in October.

DANIEL WALLACE | Times (2009)

Sickles High sophomore Brenna McTeer, 15, tries to use a cell phone and drive a slalom course during a class in October.

TALLAHASSEE — Momentum is building for a measure that would ban text messaging while driving, but legislators are still ironing out just how far the proposed law should go.

After more than an hour of heated debate, a House committee unanimously pushed forward a bill Wednesday that stopped short of making texting while driving a primary offense. So a police officer would need another reason to stop a driver and write a citation.

Lawmakers acknowledged some compromise had softened the bill language, but supporters stressed that passing any law would be better than taking no action.

"When you are offered a ham sandwich, sometimes it is better to take the ham sandwich than wait for the steak that never comes," said Rep. Gary Aubuchon, R-Cape Coral, chairman of the Roads, Bridges and Ports Policy Committee.

The texting talk puts Florida at the center of a national debate about telecommunication devices and road safety. At least 19 states and the District of Columbia have passed bans on texting while driving in recent years.

Distractions caused by mobile devices contribute to 6,000 deaths each year on America's highways, according to the U.S. Transportation Department. More than 135 billion text messages were sent or received in a one-month period in the United States, an 80 percent increase over the rate in 2008, the department found.

Florida's proposed law would make texting while driving a secondary offense. The measure also would prohibit motorists from reading data on wireless devices while driving.

First-time violators could be fined $30 plus court costs. A second offense within five years would be a moving violation, costing the texting driver $60 plus court costs.

The bill, pushed by Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, initially proposed making texting while driving a more serious offense.

Holder, who has tried to pass similar legislation in the past without success, said he was comfortable with the new bill language.

"From what I am hearing, If we made this a primary offense, there would be so much opposition that the bill would never be heard again," he said. Other lawmakers have advised him that this version would be more amenable in the Senate, he said.

Still, some proponents said they wanted to see a stronger bill reach the House floor.

"The easiest thing for law enforcement is to be able to say it is illegal to hold a piece of (telecommunications) equipment in your hand," said Rep. Julio Robaina, R-Miami.

Police officers might not be able to differentiate between drivers dialing a telephone call or texting a message without a clearer idea of what to look for, said Rep. Audrey Gibson, D-Jacksonville.

"I don't know what they (the drivers) are going to take to court to prove they are not texting," she said.

Holder urged lawmakers to trust law enforcement officers to do their jobs.

"The intention of this bill is to save lives in Florida by prohibiting texting while driving so we can reduce deaths and accidents," he said. "The purpose of the bill is not to enact a law in order to pull someone over and write a citation."

More than a dozen similar bills have been pitched in the House and Senate this year, but Holder's measure has received the most support. That doesn't sit well with lawmakers pushing for broader enforcement.

"How many lives do we have to lose before they get that this is a very serious deal?" said Rep. Janet Long, D-Seminole, who vowed to fight for a stricter ban. "It ain't over until it is over."

Cristina Silva can be reached at csilva@sptimes.com or (850) 224-7263.

Ban on texting while driving advances in state House 03/10/10 [Last modified: Thursday, March 11, 2010 12:24am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Tampa police say 41-year-old man shot and killed by ex-boss, investigation ongoing

    Crime

    TAMPA — A 41-year-old man was shot and killed by his former boss Wednesday morning outside the West Tampa auto body shop where they once worked together, according to Tampa police.

  2. Father and brother of alleged bomber detained in Libya

    World

    The father and younger brother of the man who British police say bombed an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester have been detained in Libya, where anti-terror authorities said the brother confessed to knowing "all the details" of the attack plot.

    Hashim Ramadan Abedi appears inside the Tripoli-based Special Deterrent anti-terrorism force unit after his arrest on Tuesday for alleged links to the Islamic State extremist group. Abedi is the brother of Salman Abedi, who has been identified as the man behind the bombing that killed 22 people and wounded scores at an Ariana Grande concert Monday night in Manchester. [Ahmed Bin Salman, Special Deterrent Force via AP]
  3. Marijuana extract Epidiolex helps some kids with epilepsy, study shows

    Health

    A medicine made from marijuana, without the stuff that gives a high, cut seizures in kids with a severe form of epilepsy in a study that strengthens the case for more research into pot's possible health benefits.

    An employee checks a plant at LeafLine Labs, a medical marijuana production facility in Cottage Grove, Minn. [Associated Press (2015)]
  4. CBO analysis: 23 million would lose health coverage under House-passed bill

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Republican health care bill that passed the House earlier this month would nearly double the number of Americans without health insurance over the next decade, according to a new analysis by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office.

    President Donald Trump held a press conference in the Rose Garden at the White House with members of the GOP on May 4 after the House passed legislation to roll back the Affordable Care Act. [Cheriss May | Sipa USA via TNS]
  5. Tarpon Springs psychic charged with defrauding veteran, widow out of $155,000

    News

    TARPON SPRINGS — A psychic was arrested Tuesday after police said she scammed two clients out of more than $150,000.

    Gina Wilson