It can take years to accomplish the most simple changes in the Legislature, but the long fight to approve a ban on texting while driving is finally over. After negotiating a last-minute turn, the Senate on Thursday sent the legislation to the governor. Gov. Rick Scott has indicated he will sign a texting ban, which should save lives and make the roads safer.
Starting Oct. 1, texting while driving would become a secondary violation, which means a driver would have to be stopped for another traffic offense before being cited. A first-time texting offense would carry a $30 fine, which should be enough to modify behavior.
As usual, a last-minute amendment threatened to kill the bill. The House this week added a clause that says cellphone records can be used as evidence by law enforcement only in the event of an accident causing death or personal injury. The bill's supporters feared it would kill the legislation, but the Senate reasonably accepted the restriction. It didn't hurt that the Florida Supreme Court ruled Thursday in an unrelated case that police cannot search the cellphone of an arrested person without a search warrant.
The sponsor of SB 52, Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, urged her colleagues to accept the change for the greater goal. Good call. Florida is one of only a handful of states that does not have some form of a ban on texting while driving. Just as the failure to wear seat belts began as a secondary violation in the 1980s before becoming a primary violation four years ago, the ban on texting has to start somewhere.