Driving Change: Building support for texting and driving law

Lawmakers share journey of implementing texting and driving law

News 6 pushes for legislation to stop texting and driving.

ORLANDO, Fla. – In January 2017, just two months or so into our Driving Change campaign, we asked state Rep. Richard Starke, D-Weston, what he thought the chances were that a bill he had sponsored to change Florida’s texting and driving law would pass.

“Slim and none,” he told us during a live town hall meeting. And Stark would know. He was part of the coalition behind the 2013 bill that established secondary enforcement and, ever since then he had been pushing bills to toughen up the law.

“I ran the bill last year as a stand-alone and could not get it heard,” he told us. “I’m hoping for a better outcome this year.”

In 2017, Stark got nothing. But later that year, after we pressed the speaker of the House on why his chamber was dragging its feet on texting and driving, we got some good news. The speaker reconsidered and he directed two representatives to take up the fight and get a bill passed in the House.

Matt Austin helps get results by bringing a new law to Florida.

Reps. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton and Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, did their best. They got a bill passed in 2018, but a companion bill in the Senate died in its last committee.

It was a long and arduous journey to getting 2019’s bill, HB 107, passed by both the House and Senate and signed into law, was long and arduous. Pressure from the media, constituents and law enforcement agencies finally turned the tide and got the attention of Tallahassee politicians to make a change - a Driving Change. And News 6 is proud to say we were able to be a big part of the movement.

About the Authors:

Donovan is WKMG-TV's executive producer of digital enterprise

Emmy Award-winning anchor Matt Austin joined the News 6 team in June 2011 and has been the evening news co-anchor since December 2013.