Florida lawmakers take on texting-while-driving ban again

Herald/Times Tallahassee BureauFebruary 26, 2013 

TALLAHASSEE -- It was supposed to be a joyous occasion. Russell Hurd and his wife were waiting for his 26-year-old daughter Heather and her fiancé at Walt Disney World on Jan. 3, 2008, to meet with a wedding planner.

But the young couple never arrived.

Heather, who worked for the theme park, was killed, and her fiancé injured, in a nine-car crash caused by a 61-year-old semitrailer truck driver who was distracted by his company's electronic messaging device.

Margay Schee of Ocala was 13 when a truck driver talking on his cellphone hit her school bus, which was stopped with its flashers on. Margay was pinned under the seat, the bus caught fire, and she was trapped inside.

Steve Augello of Spring Hill started worrying when his 17-year-old daughter Alessandra was late getting home

from a play rehearsal in 2008. Alessandra's car was hit head-on by a 19-year-old driver who was believed to be texting her boyfriend. Both young women died.

Three scenarios, same lethal outcome: victims killed by drivers distracted by cellphones, a problem outgoing U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood has called a "deadly epidemic."

Thirty-nine states ban text messaging for all drivers. Five states ban teens from texting while driving. Florida, on the other hand, is one of six states without a statewide ban on motorists texting.

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, and Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, have been proposing texting bans for years without success, but they're pushing hard again this year.

Detert's Senate bill passed its first committee stop and is moving up the legislative chain. Holder's companion bill will be introduced the first week in March.

"I think this is the year that the Legislature is willing to move on it," Detert said.

There's strong support for a ban of some kind. The Florida sheriffs' and police chiefs' associations, the Florida League of Cities and a host of other groups support legislation banning texting while driving.

A large majority of 800 registered Florida voters -- 71 percent -- said last year that they supported a ban on texting while driving in a Tampa Bay Times/Miami Herald/Bay News 9 poll.

"The stars may be lining up for something bold here," said Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, who voted for Detert's bill but voiced concerns that it needed more teeth.

Bradenton Herald is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service