Tuesday, December 12, 2017
Transportation

Supporters fear texting while driving bill might be in danger

TALLAHASSEE — A late amendment could derail a bill banning texting while driving for another year, supporters fear.

The amendment, which would allow cell phone records to be used as evidence only in the "event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury," was tacked onto the texting-while-driving ban Tuesday in the House.

Rep. Jose Oliva, R-Miami, proposed the change to protect people's civil liberties, not to defeat the overall bill, he said.

But its inclusion in the broader texting bill complicates matters.

Why?

Part process. Part politics.

While the House could pass the amended bill as early as today, it now must return to the Senate. The back-and-forth is typical in the final days of session, but it also increases the chances that an agreement between the two chambers will not be reached.

The House may be using the amendment as a way to quietly defeat the bill. Or House leaders could be holding up the measure as a chip in other bill negotiations with the Senate.

Matters were certainly made worse Tuesday when Democrats, angered over inaction on health insurance reform, demanded that all bills be read in their entirety.

The original texting-while-driving bill (SB 52) passed the Senate 36-0. Had House members approved the bill without the amendment, it would have headed straight to Gov. Rick Scott. Scott has not taken a position on the bill.

The proposal makes texting while driving a secondary offense. That 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.

The bill is sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and Reps. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, and Ray Pilon, R-Sarasota.

Detert watched from the back of the House chamber Tuesday as Republicans voted 73-46 to amend her bill. She called the timing "suspicious," noting that the bill has been awaiting action in the House for two weeks.

"It's a very simple bill," Detert said. "It should have simply passed."

The House has proved a roadblock to approving texting-while-driving legislation in the past, largely because of the opposition of former House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park. With Cannon out of office, supporters expected an easier time.

Republicans said the amendment was necessary to limit when police could use cell phone records against a driver, not to derail the bill.

"We see amendments every day and no one is accusing anyone else of being scheming or being dishonest," said Rep. Dane Eagle, R-Cape Coral.

But Rep. Dave Kerner, a Lake Worth Democrat and former police officer, said the amendment was unnecessary. "Police will not be subpoenaing your records" for a traffic ticket, he said.

Thirty-nine states and the District of Columbia already have texting-while-driving bans for all drivers.

The proposed Florida ban is supported by AT&T, the AARP, AAA, trial lawyers, businesses and state law enforcement groups.

According to a preliminary report from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were 256,443 reported crashes in 2012. In 4,841 of those crashes, a driver had been texting or otherwise using an "electronic communication device" while driving.

A 2010 study by the Highway Loss Data Institute, which looks at insurance claims, said crashes didn't go down in states that banned texting by drivers, but rather found reported collisions went up slightly.

The researchers guessed that bans are making a bad situation worse by causing drivers, knowing it's illegal, to move their phones down and out of sight when they text. That takes their eyes even further away from the road.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report.

Comments
Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

Express lanes set to open on Veterans. They’re free -- for now.

TAMPA — Drivers on the Veterans Expressway will gain an extra lane from Gunn Highway to Hillsborough Avenue starting Saturday.But there’s a catch: Once drivers enter the lane, they won’t be able to leave it — not until a designated exit about six mil...
Published: 12/08/17
Pasco group picks untried intersection design to ease U.S. 41/SR 54 congestion

Pasco group picks untried intersection design to ease U.S. 41/SR 54 congestion

LAND O’LAKES – A citizens group says a better way to move vehicles along a congested central Pasco corridor could involve a never-been-tried intersection design that diverts turning traffic onto parallel frontage roads.The citizens group, known as th...
Published: 12/06/17
Updated: 12/07/17
Northbound Sunshine Skyway lanes to close for running event in March

Northbound Sunshine Skyway lanes to close for running event in March

ST. PETERSBURG — The Sunshine Skyway bridge will shut down on a Sunday morning in March for a running race that is expected to draw up to 7,000 participants.The Armed Forces Families Foundation announced the event, dubbed the "Skyway 10k Saluting Mil...
Published: 12/05/17
Updated: 12/06/17
Dr. Delay: Confusing striping at Ulmerton and Roosevelt is temporary

Dr. Delay: Confusing striping at Ulmerton and Roosevelt is temporary

Heading east where Roosevelt Boulevard joins Ulmerton Road, the inside lane of Roosevelt is confusing where the roads merge. If a driver uses the lane striping on their right as their guide, they are in one lane, and if they stay to the left, they ar...
Published: 12/05/17
Today: Pasco, Hernando residents can meet on transportation

Today: Pasco, Hernando residents can meet on transportation

Pasco and Hernando residents will get to find out what transportation projects are in the works for their communities on Tuesday evening.PREVIOUS COVERAGE: Long-awaited Tampa Bay transit study identifies five corridors for future transportation syste...
Published: 12/05/17

Workers to drill under Gandy Boulevard, partially closing lane Monday through Friday

TAMPA — An eastbound lane on West Gandy Boulevard at Church Avenue will partially close from Monday through Friday for drilling related to the Selmon Extension.Workers will use a geotechnical drill to examine the soil under the road, according to pro...
Published: 12/02/17
St. Petersburg to replace 40th Avenue Bridge; cones stay in the meantime

St. Petersburg to replace 40th Avenue Bridge; cones stay in the meantime

ST. PETERSBURG — Those traversing the 40th Avenue Bridge, the main span connecting Shore Acres and Venetian Isles with the Old Northeast and Northeast Park neighborhoods, can expect to see orange cones barricading the center of the bridge for t...
Published: 11/29/17
Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

Dr. Delay: Signal timing meant to move traffic, not frustrate drivers, county says

What is going on with the traffic lights on 66th Street? The way they are timed could be causing road rage.Going either north or south on 66th from 102nd Avenue N to 54th Avenue N, it used to work like this: The light would stop both lanes, those tra...
Published: 11/28/17
Dr. Delay: Pinellas traffic officials to tweak signals near Largo Mall

Dr. Delay: Pinellas traffic officials to tweak signals near Largo Mall

The Largo Mall entrance stoplight on Ulmerton Road just east of Seminole Boulevard has been causing traffic delays on eastbound Ulmerton at Seminole Boulevard. It appears that the light at the Largo Mall entrance is being triggered on-demand by folks...
Updated one month ago
FDOT considers transit, other options for improving Fowler Avenue in USF area

FDOT considers transit, other options for improving Fowler Avenue in USF area

TAMPA — A new study eventually could lead to better traffic flow on Fowler Avenue while offering a variety of transportation options.The $500,000 study, to take up to 18 months, focuses on the University Area and the University of South Florida. It ...
Updated one month ago