Florida House vote sends texting and driving bill to governor's desk

Driving Change: Advocates hopeful bill will become law

By Amanda Castro - Reporter/Anchor

ORLANDO, Fla. - UPDATE: The Florida House voted Monday to approve a bill to ban texting and driving. It was the final hurdle before the legislation could head to Gov. Ron DeSantis and become law.

News 6 has advocated for three years for stricter texting and driving laws to make Florida's roads safer.

EARLIER REPORT:

News 6's efforts to drive change in Florida by pushing for stricter texting and driving laws still needs to pass a major hurdle before it heads to the governor's desk to be signed.

The Florida House are going to vote on the amended House Bill 107 Monday afternoon.

Ahead of the vote, advocates are rejoicing about how far the distracted driving bill has come.

Jill Fritch said she was stopped at a red light in October 2016 when a driver who was texting slammed into her vehicle.

"I was hit at 55 miles an hour. He never hit his brakes," Fritch said.

Four months later, Fritch said another texting driver crashed into her car. The longtime teacher is now permanently disabled.

[RELATED: News 6 Driving Change timelineNews 6 anchor Matt Austin testifies for distracted driving billCould 2019 be the year Florida passes tougher distracted driving laws?]

"My life has been totally destroyed, but I won't give up. I'm just going to make change," Fritch said.

Fritch said she found her new purpose to join News 6's mission to drive change. 

She was watching News 6 at 5 p.m. Thursday when anchor Matt Austin broke the news that the state Senate made a pivotal vote and passed HB107.

"I heard Matt say they just voted on it? It passed? And I began screaming at the top of my lungs. I just cannot even explain the exhilaration I felt," she said.

This marks the closest lawmakers have come to getting a stricter texting and driving law.

"The joy I felt. Finally our voices had been heard and we could make a difference," Fritch said.

The bill makes texting and driving a primary offense, which means officers can pull you over if they catch you typing on your phone while the car is moving. It also makes it illegal to hold or use your phone in construction or school zones.

AAA spokesperson Mark Jenkins said the company is hopeful this will help stop distracted driving.

"We're really excited to see this possibly coming to fruition," Jenkins said.

The Central Florida Expressway Authority supports the bill and said in a statement, "The Central Florida Expressway Authority has participated in campaigns warning about the dangers of texting and driving for more than six years. CFX supports Florida lawmakers in their efforts to make our roads safer for drivers, construction crews and emergency responders."

Fritch said she is hopeful the House will pass the bill Monday. It would then head to the governor's desk for his signature.

She calls this a step in the right direction to make our roads safer.

"I am so thankful that you've helped us accomplish this mission," Fritch said.

News 6 contacted all of the Central Florida school districts about the bill. The unedited responses from three county officials who responded are below:

Brevard County
Student safety is the No. 1 priority for Brevard Public Schools and support any measure that reduces distracted driving in school zones.

Marion County 
Many of our schools in Marion County post signs in the carline areas directing drivers *NOT* to use electronic devices in those areas.  Legally prohibiting cell phone use in school zones and on school property would certainly make dismissal time move more quickly.  

Sumter County
I think that any legislation restricting the use of phones or devices while operating motor vehicles is a step in the right direction for making our students safer.  I do like that it is specific in calling attention to school zones and crosswalks, but also believe that it needs to be tougher and expand to all of our roadways. 

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