Ban on texting while driving picking up speed in the Senate; House to hear bill Thursday

March 7, 2013 

A bill that makes texting while driving a secondary offense, proposed by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice for the fourth year in a row, was unamiously approved by the Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committe Wednesday. But much is riding on the vote for a companion bill by Representatives Doug Holder and Ray Pilon, both Sarasota Republicans, which will be presented on Thursday. It's the first time in two years that texting while driving legislation will be heard in the House.

Detert's bill was so well-received in the Senate Wednesday that a long list of supporters who came to the committee meeting didn't need to make their case.

Committee member Sen. Aaron Bean, R-Fernadina Beach, wanted to know “how soon can we update the curriculum for kids learning to be new drivers” so that teens "across Florida know immediately this is a no-no and not even think about it." “As soon as we pass the bill,” Detert answered.

She told the committee Florida is one of five states without any type of ban on texting while driving, pointing out that “according to the Florida Highway Department, they have managed to trace electronic devices to more than 3,700 crashes.”

While some legislators and advocates have called for tougher restrictions, Detert said the bill (SB 52) is “not watered down.”

“What I want is for mothers and dads to be able to say ‘Don't forget, don't text while driving, it's against the law,” Detert said. “I can guarantee you none of your children is going to pull down the Florida State statutes and say: "Oh, but it's only a secondary offense. Either we have a law or we don't have a law.”

The fine would be $30 for a first-time texting offense, $60 if it occurs again within five years, with a penalty of three points. Since drivers would have to be pulled over first for another offense, they would be given two tickets.

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