'Hands-free' Florida bill would allow drivers to 'tap' cellphones

Uber, Lyft drivers could still use GPS

By Erik von Ancken - Anchor/Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - One day after Florida state Rep. Jackie Toledo announced she will file a bill that would ban Florida drivers from holding their phones while behind the wheel, she clarified that drivers would be allowed "one tap."

Toledo (R-Tampa) said drivers could tap their phone to answer or decline a call but not program an address, Google something or send text messages.

HB 107 states: "A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data or using on such a device for the purpose of non-voice or voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing and instant messaging. "

Drivers will not be ticketed who are "receiving messages that are: Related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle," according to HB 107.

News 6 traffic safety expert Trooper Steve Montiero answered questions from viewers and readers about the proposed law. If it passes the law would go into effect Oct. 1, 2019.

Here are some of those questions and answers:

Question: The law would be unenforceable? They think just passing a law is going to stop people from doing foolish things?

Montiero: Unenforceable, I understand the viewer's approach on this. But we're now taking (the current) law that is so vague and ridiculous, and giving it substance. We're giving these law enforcement officers an opportunity to simply see a phone in someone's hands and stop that car. I guarantee if we pass this law, hundreds of tickets over time and over time we change people's behavior, because now we're putting a monetary value simply to touching your phone while driving.

Question: So you can drive with a gun in your car but not a phone?

Montiero: This is a little comical, but the point I believe the viewer is, making is this is a civil rights issue. Driving is not a right. It's a privilege. Walking: God gave us two legs, that's your right, you can travel however you want walking. Driving in the state of Florida is not a right, you have to earn that right by following a set of rules. The Constitution gives us a right to bear arms, it does not give us a right to own a vehicle.

Question: How would this affect ride-share drivers?

Montiero: This law is not to attack ride-sharing drivers. It's to make you extra safe. How many times do these Uber and Lyft drivers have phone mounts in their car? Set your stuff before you hit the road. It shouldn't make any ride-sharing or taxi driver's lives any more difficult. If anything it should make it safer for them because now they have a reason not to be distracted on the road. And safer for you if you're riding in that car.

Question: People use their phone as a GPS, ya know?

Montiero: Set it before you leave the house.

Question: Georgia has this law in effect already, is it working?

Montiero: We're kinda one of the last states but yet we're one of the highest visited states. If Georgia's crash numbers decreased by 25 percent, imagine what it would do here in Florida.

Comment: Nice try, nobody is gonna listen and then the cops will just give up, so go ahead and try!

Montiero's response: I can promise you, from any major agency in Central Florida, be ready when this law passes. I would not be the one who touches their phone while driving, especially right here. I was a motor trooper when this first law came out. I'd be riding right next to vehicles on their phone. There was nothing I could do if they were breaking no other law. If this law passes, every cop out there who sees a phone in hand will initiate a traffic stop.

Question: Too many cars do not have hands-free technology, so what do I do?"

Montiero: If this technology is not built into your car, it's on you. It's not the world's problem to make technology convenient for you. You need to make safety convenient for you. What do you do? You put the phone aside.

Do you have a question about traffic safety, roadways or law enforcement? Click here to submit questions for News 6 traffic safety expert Steve Montiero.

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