Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Supporters fear texting while driving bill might be in danger

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 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.

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.


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.

Supporters fear texting while driving bill might be in danger 04/30/13 [Last modified: Wednesday, May 1, 2013 10:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  2. In Florida, nation's only lightning center closes after DARPA cuts funding


    University of Florida professor Martin Uman usually spends much of this summer at an old Army base about an hour northeast of Gainesville, shooting rockets at thunderclouds, then measuring the bright flashes of lightning that followed.

    Rocket-and-wire triggered lightning at the University of Florida's International Center for Lightning Research and Testing, which recently lost federal funding. A rocket trailing a grounded wire is launched toward an active thunderstorm at the ICLRT. One launch is from a tower, one from ground. When the wire is about as high as the Empire State Building, lightning is induced to strike the top of the wire, much as it strikes tall objects like the ESB. Interestingly, the cloud charge source is about 3 miles high, so a 300 yard-long wire can cause a 3 mile or more long lightning.  After that, there are several normal tortuous strokes ( downward leaders from the cloud charge/upward return strokes) which can be seen as the wind blows the individual strokes to the right. The time between strokes is about 50 thousands of a second. Between some strokes, continuing current can be seen. Continuing current is what generally starts forest fires. [Photo by Dr. Dustin Hill]
  3. Editorial: Reasonable clarity on gambling in Florida


    Gambling expansion strategies — and misfires — are nearly an annual ritual in Florida. There were the eight counties that voted to allow slot machines but were blocked by the Florida Supreme Court. There was the governor's $3 billion deal with the Seminole Tribe in 2015 that was never approved by the …

    Gov. Rick Scott agreed to a much simpler deal with the Seminole Tribe that embraces the status quo instead of expansion. And that’s a good thing.
  4. Amid U.S. real estate buying binge by foreign investors, Florida remains first choice

    Real Estate

    Foreign investment in U.S. residential real estate recently skyrocketed to a new high with nearly half of all foreign sales happening in Florida, California and Texas.

    A National Association of Realtors annual survey found record volume and activity by foreign buyers of U.S. real estate. Florida had the highest foreign investment activity, followed by California and Texas. [National Association of Realtors]
  5. Editorial: Hillsborough smartly embraces diversion program for youths


    Children who commit minor crimes can pay for their mistakes for a lifetime — losing a chance to attend college, join the military or obtain credit and a good job. That is unjust to the individuals and a burdensome cost to society, and Hillsborough County is taking the right new approach by giving some juveniles a …

    Hillsborough State Attorney Andrew Warren has announced an agreement between law enforcement agencies and the courts that will allow first-time offenders who commit nonviolent crimes as juveniles to be issued civil citations rather than face an arrest and prosecution.