Proposed new law targets people holding cell phones while driving

cell phone
flickr photo

Florida was one of the last states in the country to impose sanctions on motorists who text while driving, but critics call the current law essentially toothless. Now a Republican member of the Florida House from Tampa  wants to go much further in the name of public safety, proposing legislation that would prohibit motorists from holding a cell phone at all while driving.

Currently, texting while driving in Florida is a “secondary offense.” That means a law enforcement officer must see another violation taking place before they can cite a driver for texting.

47 states currently impose bans of some sort on motorists for texting while driving, but according to the National Conference of State Legislators, only three states consider it a secondary offense. Florida is one of them.

Under the proposal filed on Monday by state Rep. Jackie Toledo, law-enforcement officers will be able to pull over Florida motorists for texting and driving or for talking on a cell phone without a hands-free device. “Distracted driving can have deadly consequences, and it’s time we finally address this public safety crisis,” Toledo said in a press conference on Monday. “Children like Logan Scherer of Riverview would be alive today if drivers would put down their phones and concentrate on the road. This bill will hopefully act as a deterrent and make our roads safer.”

Scherer was nine years old when authorities say he was killed in 2016 by a distracted driver who slammed into the back of his family’s SUV on I-75.

This is the second bill already filed in the House on texting and driving in advance of the 2019 legislative session, which starts in March. Boca Raton Democrat Emily Slosberg filed a similar measure last month. Toledo filed a similar bill last year, where it passed overwhelmingly in the Florida House (112-2) but didn’t pass the Senate.

For 2019,  Pasco County Republican Rep. Wilton Simpson has filed a companion measure In the Florida House.

“We all know that using the phone while driving is a serious distraction,” Simpson said in a statement. “I look forward to working with Representative Toledo to combat distractions behind the wheel of a moving vehicle for the sake of keeping our roads, constituents and visitors to the State of Florida safe.”

If the Legislature were to pass Toledo’s bill next year, Florida would join California, New York and 14 other states that allow only hands-free cell phone use.

 

 

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This is a very serious issue, I see so many floridians on the phone or texting while driving
    and no one cares. Maybe they will care when one of their loved ones is killed. It can wait
    nothing you have to say or text is worth anothers life. Every morning I turn on the news and another fatal accident on the road. Everyday! This law much change and the penalty must be severe.
    In london a first offense is a $700 fine, noone is on there phone while driving there. Lets make this stop already.

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