Sunday, December 17, 2017
Public safety

Texting while driving bill gets moving in House

TALLAHASSEE — A bill to limit texting while driving appears finally to have momentum in the Florida House, after years of proposals stalling out.

On Thursday, Rep. Doug Holder's bill to make texting while driving a secondary offense passed unanimously out of a House transportation subcommittee.

It was the first time Holder's texting bill had been heard in a House committee in five years.

While the bill, HB 13, has more committees to clear, supporters called the vote a first, big step.

Florida is one of only five states without any type of texting while driving restriction.

"It's tremendous," said Holder, a Republican from Sarasota who is sponsoring the measure with Rep. Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota.

It was the second victory in two days for legislators, law enforcement, businesses and safety advocates fighting for a texting while driving law.

The Senate version of the bill, SB 52, won unanimous approval in its second committee meeting Wednesday.

Holder and Senate sponsor Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, have both credited House Speaker Will Weatherford for allowing the bill to be heard in the House.

The bills proposed by Detert, Holder and Pilon would make texting while driving a secondary offense, which means a motorist would have to commit another violation, such as careless driving, in order to be pulled over.

Once stopped, a driver could receive two tickets, one for the infraction and one for texting.

The fine would be $30 for a first-time texting offense, $60 if it occurs again within five years, with more points added if the violation is in a school zone.

Texting would be allowed in hands-off high-tech cars and when a car is stopped at a red light or in a traffic jam.

"Is this bill the best bill in the world for texting and driving? No," said Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, who voted for the bill Thursday. "However in the Florida Legislature it has to go slowly when it comes to road safety bills. This will take a bite out of the apple and next year hopefully we'll enhance this."

Holder said it's important to retrain attitudes toward texting while driving, the way attitudes changed toward seat belt use.

"The most important part of this whole thing is to be able to empower parents and drivers' ed teachers to tell their students and children that texting while driving in Florida is illegal," he said.

Keyna Cory, a lobbyist for the National Solid Wastes Management Association who has organized a coalition of more 20 law enforcement, business and advocacy groups that support the legislation, said there is a "motivated group" backing the legislation, including representatives of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, AAA, AT&T and the Florida PTA.

Holder said there hasn't been enough data to document how many crashes have involved texting in Florida, but said he thinks making the practice illegal would "substantially decrease," the number.

More than 100,000 crashes a year involve drivers who are texting, according to the National Safety Council.

"At the end of the day, this is a no-brainer type of bill," Holder said. "This is an issue that has no lobbyists behind it, no money behind it. The only people who would benefit from this are the people."

Comments

Two die in head-on crash on Gunn Highway in Odessa

ODESSA — Hillsborough County deputies are investigating a head-on crash on Gunn Highway that killed two and sent a child to the hospital Saturday afternoon.About 12: 45 p.m., Terry Lee Bronschidle, 70, of Tampa was driving his Chevy Traverse south on...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

Firefighters injured after early-morning blaze at Tampa strip mall

TAMPA — Three firefighters were injured early Saturday morning while battling a fire at a strip mall on W Waters Avenue, according to Tampa Fire Rescue.Firefighters said the blaze started around 2:45 p.m. in the attic of L.A. Nail Supply, located at ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

Pinellas sheriff’s investigator fired, could face criminal charges for involvement in child custody battle

LARGO — A Pinellas sheriff’s child protective investigator has been fired and could face criminal charges after an investigation found she made a child custody recommendation to a judge as a favor to a friend.Jayne Johnson, who has worked for the She...
Published: 12/15/17
Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

Deputies: Plant City men fled in stolen car, shot dog, hid in swamp

DOVER — Two Plant City men who ran from deputies and shot a dog were captured after a brief pursuit Thursday, according to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.They ditched a stolen car, ran away on foot, crossed through several yards and then tr...
Published: 12/15/17

Tampa bicyclist, 52, dies after being rear-ended by vehicle; no charges

TAMPA — A 52-year-old man riding a bicycle was killed early Friday when he was struck from behind by a car in Seminole Heights, according to Tampa police.The incident took place at about 12:15 a.m. Wayne Kersh, 52, was riding his bicycle in the eastb...
Published: 12/15/17
After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

After third fire at former Ybor City bathhouse, arrest is made

TAMPA — A 46-year-old man was arrested Friday and accused of setting fire to a vacant Ybor City bathhouse hit by arson at least two other times earlier this year.Two Tampa police officers spotted smoke from the vacant building at 1512 E Eighth Ave. a...
Published: 12/15/17

FHP: Overturned pick-up slowed traffic on northbound Howard Frankland

ST. PETERSBURG — A pick-up truck towing a car onto the northbound Howard Frankland Bridge overturned and crashed on the shoulder, causing back-ups for motorists trying to get to Tampa, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.The incident was reported...
Published: 12/15/17
New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

New video shows cows beaten and burned at Florida dairy farm

The Miami Beach-based Animal Recovery Mission has released a video from its undercover abuse investigation at a Central Florida dairy farmThe graphic video, with disturbing images of cows cruelly being beaten, speared, stabbed and burned, was shot by...
Published: 12/15/17

Missing Child Alert canceled for Port St. Lucie girl, 17

A Florida Missing Child Alert has been canceled for a 17-year-old Port St. Lucie girl who was last seen on Thursday.The case involving Heaven Flores has been resolved, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
Published: 12/15/17

Hudson pedestrian killed while crossing U.S. 19

HUDSON — A Hudson man was killed Thursday night while crossing U.S. 19.According to the Florida Highway Patrol, 59-year-old Gerald Berube was crossing the northbound lanes of U.S. 19 north of Stahl Drive around 6:40 p.m. when he walked into the path ...
Published: 12/15/17