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Lawmakers Want Tougher Laws for Texting and Driving

December 1, 2015 - 7:30pm

Put down those cell phones and save your texting and web surfing for later -- texting while driving could become a primary offense if legislation from two Republican lawmakers passes through the Florida Legislature this year.

The proposal, sponsored by Sen. Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, and Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, would change current Florida law to make texting while driving a primary offense. Currently, texting while driving is only a secondary offense, which means a driver must be breaking the law in another way to get ticketed for texting at the wheel. Primary offenses could include speeding, reckless driving, or running a red light -- all of which  could lead to a secondary offense.

Because texting while driving is only a secondary offense, it means not as many people are cited for it -- only 1800 tickets were given out for texting and driving last year.

Only five states currently list texting while driving as a secondary offense.

Rep. Perry said the bill was important to discourage people from texting while driving, possibly endangering themselves and others from being distracted. He, too, admitted he was guilty of the same crime, but admitted he believed those caught with their phones in hand should be properly punished.

“It was a debate for me whether or not I wanted to take the bill on, but it’s so important and if I get a ticket, then I get a ticket, I need one and I deserve one,” he said.

Texting while driving has been outlawed in many states already, with some even restricting talking on cell phones while driving for drivers under the age of 18.

“Think of other disasters or incidents, aircraft disasters, where you lose two or three hundred lives. And it’s horrific,” said Sen. Altman.

Altman said the public has become “insensitive” to texting while driving, a problem which claims 3,000 lives a year in Florida.

The joint legislation has yet to be considered for the 2016 legislative session. This week wraps up committee weeks before all bills head to the 2016 regular legislative session which begins in January.

Each bill filed has to pass at least three committees before it can reach the House and Senate floors. Altman’s version of the bill has to be heard in four committees.

Other lawmakers proposed similar legislation earlier this year during the 2015 regular legislative session -- a bill sponsored by Sen. Maria Sachs, D-Delray Beach, would have made texting while driving a primary offense as well as double the fines for texting while driving. Sachs has revived the latter portion of her earlier bill in a separate bill for the 2016 legislative session, but the legislation would only apply to school zones.

The current fine for texting while driving is $30.



What about eating & drinking "fast food" while driving?? OR applying eye makeup and brushing hair looking into an intentionally mal-adjusted rear view mirror while driving? OR "bouncing around" to music even I can hear from MY car while in moving traffic? We ALREADY have "distracted driving laws" and "driving while STUPID laws"...HOW ABOUT ENFORCING THEM (or is it too time consuming to write a descriptive narrative on the traffic ticket?!?). C'mon Legislators,..Get back to work and avoid the "duplicative busy" laws you're spending far too much time on...OR...How about taking some of the "silly laws" OFF THE BOOKS.... "Common sense" has always 'ruled' (at least until legislative-seats became "competetive sport")...

Right on! view is that ya can't fix stupid. Perhaps that is the prevalent affliction. Yes, there are already plenty of moving violation laws on the books that are applicable. You may well be correct about not having a pre-printed box to check so as to make it easy for a machine to tally offenses. I like the way you think, C. Breeze.

Texting while driving is one important part of the sloppy driving behavior. Let's see - there's fiddling with the car navigation devices, dialing cell fone calls, yapping on the cell fone, tuning for different music on the car audio device, and a couple more. I suspect that legislators are hesitant to pass serious laws because their children, maybe spouses, and they themselves are violators. Aw comon Dad! Give us a break. The 1st offense penalty should be to pick up 3 miles of trash, both sides of road, on a designated highway. Then the fines begin at DL suspension for 6 months because the bad driving behavior can be a killer.

At this point I love the country but hate the government. And we don't need any more laws. But this one makes sense. As opposed to the Draconian "Irv Slosberg Memorial for his Daughter" law that mandates wearing seat belts. Irv lost his daughter in a car wreck. She probably would not have died had she been wearing a belt. So he bought himself a seat in the legislature, which does not cost as much as you might think. He was willing to vote for ANYTHING YOU WANTED - as long as you voted for his seat belt law. They did and he did. Motorcycle people don't need a helmet. You routinely see six colored children in the back of a truck. But Irv had his way. Get a $150 ticket for not wearing one and then look at where your money goes. A little chunk of it goes to the Dory Slosberg fund, whatever in the hell that is. Repeal the seat belt law. I will take my chances. If I don't have it on, no one gets hurt but me. But texting and driving can involve your stupid behavior with my safety. Pass this one.

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