Texting while driving bill passes first Florida Senate committee hearing

Senate Bill 90 would allow law enforcement to stop, cite drivers for texting

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Lawmakers got past their first hurdle Tuesday afternoon to improve safety on Florida roads when a bill to strengthen the state’s ineffective texting and driving law got through its first committee.

Senate Bill 90, introduced by Sen. Keith Perry (R-Gainesville), would allow law enforcement to stop drivers caught texting on their phones and issue them a citation. Florida is just one of four states that enforces texting and driving as a secondary offense.

“All too often we hear of the tragic stories of families that have been affected by someone who was texting behind the wheel,” Senator Perry said. “I’m proud to sponsor this vital piece of legislation that will make texting and driving a primary offense in the State of Florida and join the many other states who have answered the call for safer roadways.”

SB 90, along with its House companion bill HB 121, would make texting and driving a primary offense.

Tuesday's yes vote by the Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee was Perry’s first test on a long road to toughening Florida’s texting and driving law. The next stops for the bill are debate in the Transportation CommitteeAppropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism, and Economic Development, and the Committee on Appropriations.

SB 90’s companion bill over in the House, introduced by Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Boca Raton) and Rep. Richard Stark (D-Weston), also has three committees to go through: the Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee, the Judiciary Committee, and the Government Accountability Committee.

If both bills pass through all of their respective committees, they will be combined into a compromise bill for the governor to either sign or veto.

“Providing law enforcement with the ability to enforce the 'Texting While Driving Ban' as a primary offense will save lives and prevent injuries,” Slosberg told News 6 earlier this month. “I’ve been contacted by constituents with stories about parents dying, kids dying and it is time that we take action.”

If the bill becomes a law, it would go into effect on Oct. 1, 2018.

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