Bill would ban Florida drivers from touching, holding cellphone

News 6 continues to push Driving Change initiative

By Emilee Speck - Digital journalist, Daniel Dahm - Digital Manager

TAMPA, Fla. - Florida state Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, on Monday introduced a new bill that would ban drivers from holding or touching a cellphone.

Toledo said the legislation is "aimed at saving lives and making our roads safer."

Brooke Scherer, the mother of 9-year-old Logan Scherer, who was killed in a distracted driving crash, attended the announcement. Brooke Scherer, her husband and their daughter were critically injured in the September 2016 crash that killed Logan.

"I saw everything that day," Scherer said. "I saw my son lying on the side of the road blue. I was the one on the phone when I was told my son had not made it."

Scherer said she wanted to remind everyone that they're not immune to being a victim or causing "such a senseless tragedy."

"What did he die for?" she asked. "Logan died because a cellphone was more important than his life."

Toledo said Logan's legacy will live on and changes will be made to Florida's law.

Lawmakers have tried, unsuccessfully, to create laws forbidding texting and driving.

"This bill is different. Last year was based on texting and driving. This is a hands-free ban. It doesn't matter what you're doing," Toledo said. "It's physically touching and holding the phone that will be against the law."

Toledo said the bill has one mission.

"We want to make sure we're saving lives," she said. 

House Bill 107 has companion bill in the Senate, would make holding a phone -- not just texting and driving -- a primary offense in Florida. Law enforcement will not have to see or know what drivers are doing on the phone.

The Scherer family has established the Living for Logan Foundation, with the goal to "eliminate distracted driving through education, legislation, and changing the hearts, minds, and habits of drivers everywhere," according to the nonprofit's website.

News 6 has also been working to raise awareness of Florida's distracted driving laws for two years.

Florida is one of three states in which law enforcement officers cannot pull drivers over just because they are on their cellphones. Because it's a secondary offense, drivers can only be cited for being on their phone if they're pulled over for another reason.

In years past, Florida lawmakers have introduced bills to change that; however, none has ever made it to a final vote in the state Senate.

Toledo said because her bill includes a broader "hands-free" requirement, that gives it a good chance of passing.

Months before the Florida legislative session, lawmakers have made it clear they plan to address distracted driving in the Sunshine State this year.

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.

Toledo said it's possible her bill and Slosberg's may be combined.

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