You will recall a few years ago I wrote several articles about the need to for tough texting while driving laws. The legislature had passed a no texting law, but it was a secondary offense. That means, after you get pulled over for speeding, if the cop sees you texting, he can give you a second ticket. However, if he sees you texting and not speeding, he can’t stop you. Since texting and driving kills almost as many people as DUI, it’s time to get tough.
After years of stymieing efforts to toughen Florida’s distracted driving laws, leadership in the Florida House will introduce a bill this week that could finally make texting behind the wheel a primary offense. It would allow law enforcement officers to stop drivers they observe texting and driving. It is time Florida joins 43 other states in making texting a primary offense, but only in conjunction with civil rights protections, including prohibiting officers from accessing or confiscating a driver’s phone without a warrant and requiring them to inform drivers of their rights to refuse a search of their phones. State Representative Corcan who has sponsored a Bill said, “We have written the toughest civil rights protections in the law, probably of any state in the nation,” The police have to get a warrant…can’t use intimidation…can’t confiscate their cellphone. All of these things are great protections” he said.
This new law could not come soon enough. “92% of all drivers admit in the last thirty days to texting and driving,” Corcoran added. “So if we can curb that behavior, and eliminate 200-plus deaths and 50,000 accidents (from Florida roads), it’s going to be a great benefit.” The new House bill would increase fines for texting behind the wheel to $30 plus court costs (up to $108 total) for a first offense, which would be a non-moving violation. But subsequent violations within five years would be considered moving violations, with a $60 fine plus court costs (up to $158 total) as well as three points on the driver’s license. Any violation that causes a crash would bring six points to a driver’s license, and any offense in conjunction with a moving violation in a school zone would result in an additional two points.
As a person who drives around Florida all the time, I am glad. I usually oppose extra laws that are designed to generate money for the State, but EVERYONE on Florida roads needs to put there phones away and pay better attention. Hopefully, this new law will save thousands of lives.
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