Driving Change: Florida distracted driving bill passes final committee vote

SB 76 advanced to Senate floor

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Donovan Myrie - Investigative/Special Projects Producer

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - The Florida Senate bill that would allow law enforcement to pull over drivers for texting and driving passed its final Senate committee. It's the farthest a distracted driving bill has gone in Tallahassee.

"I'm supportive of the concept of not texting while driving," said Governor Ron DeSantis.

Senate Bill 76 passed the Rules Committee Wednesday afternoon and is now heading to the Florida Senate floor for debate. The accompanying legislation, HB 107, is likely to get a vote in the Florida House next week.

Last month, the Senate’s Judiciary Committee amended SB 76 to remove the requirement of hands-free enforcement and instead make distracted driving a primary offense.

[Driving Change: News 6 anchor Matt Austin testifies for distracted driving bill Distracted driving blamed for rise in traffic deaths, injuries]

The final committee vote Wednesday means Florida is very close -- once again -- to passing a stricter texting and driving bill. Florida is among the only remaining states where law enforcement cannot pull drivers over for distracted driving as a primary offense.

"The Florida Police Chiefs Association stands in strong support of SB 76 as amended and passed (Wednesday) in the Senate Rules Committee. We applaud Sen. Simpson for restoring the bill’s original intent and allowing only the hands-free use of a handheld communications device while driving. By encouraging drivers to keep both hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, SB 76 will help law enforcement better protect the public we serve," said Amy Mercer, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association.

"The one concern I have is that you need to enforce it routinely. You can't pull one over out of a thousand," DeSantis said.

If SB 76 makes it through the Senate floor, leaders from the Senate and the House will have to construct a final bill before Gov. Ron DeSantis signs it into law.

News 6 has championed stricter distracted driving laws in Florida for the last three years. If you want to see Florida's roads become safer, tell your state lawmakers.

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