Driving Change: Florida lawmakers file 2 bills to curb distracted driving

Bills go for nuclear option: No hand-held devices behind wheel

By Donovan Myrie - Investigative/Special Projects Producer

Texting and driving generic photo

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Three months before the official start of the 2019 Florida legislative session, two state politicians are wasting no time trying to toughen up Florida’s lax texting and driving law.

Republican state Sen. Wilton Simpson, of Trilby, and Democratic state Rep. Emily Slosberg, of Boca Raton, have each filed bills that would not only make texting and driving a primary offense, but would also restrict reading or talking on a wireless device while behind the wheel.

Trilby’s bill, SB 76, is dubbed the “Florida Ban on Wireless Communications Devices While Driving Law.”

Slosberg’s bill, HB 45, has a much simpler name: the “Hands-Free Florida Law.”

“The No. 1 cause of death for teenagers is car crashes,” Slosberg told News 6 Monday afternoon. “This legislation will save lives and make Florida’s roads much safer for everyone.”

Under current Florida law, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning police can only pull over a driver for texting if the driver can be seen breaking another law.

Last year the Florida House passed its version of a tougher distracted driving bill but the Senate version stalled in the Senate Appropriations Committee, which was chaired by Republican State Sen. Rob Bradley, of Gainesville.

For the third year in a row, Slosberg has sponsored anti-texting and driving legislation. Slosberg told News 6 she would like to publicly thank Senator Wilton, who is the Senate majority leader, for “making this a priority of the Senate.”

The new proposals follow in the footsteps of 17 other states, including New York and California, that don’t allow drivers to hold a phone while behind the wheel.

Georgia recently passed a similar hands-free-only bill that went into effect on July 1.

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