New bill would require Florida drivers to go fully hands-free when using mobile phones

click to enlarge AdobeAfter helping craft a 2019 law that strengthened Florida’s ban on texting while driving, Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, is seeking to require motorists to go fully “hands-free” while using wireless phones.Slosberg on Friday introduced a bill for the 2021 legislative session that would make it illegal for people to operate vehicles while “manually holding or otherwise touching” wireless devices.“Cell phones are the number one source of distraction for drivers and I have fought for years to ban using them while driving,” Slosberg said in a prepared statement. “The texting-while-driving ban we passed during the 2019 legislative session was a great start, but it was just that — a start. We must do more to limit distracted driving and keep our roadways safe.”Slosberg, whose twin sister died in a car accident, co-sponsored the texting-while-driving legislation during the 2019 session with Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa.Part of the 2019 law made texting while driving a “primary” offense, which means police can pull over motorists for texting behind the wheel. Previously, it was considered a “secondary” offense, which meant motorists could only be cited for texting while driving if they were pulled over for other reasons.The law also prohibits motorists from using hand-held wireless devices in designated school crossings, school zones and work zones. Slosberg proposed a bill during the 2020 legislative session to use a fully “hands free” approach, but the measure did not advance.Slosberg’s proposal would make Florida the 26th state to prohibit all drivers from using hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel.

With more residents than New York, Florida is on track to gain congressional seats

Texas gained the most residents, with about 367,000.While the Census put Floridas growth during the past year at about 640 residents a day, state officials have cited an estimate of 900 as they have made projections and called for infrastructure such as new highways. State economists, however, have used different methodologies than the Census Bureau in estimating population growth.In the Census release, Florida easily topped the national growth rate of about 0.5 percent, with the population of the United States growing the past year by 1.55 million to 328,239,523.The national growth, which peaked this decade at 0.73 percent between 2014 and 2015, has been slowing due to fewer births in recent years and the number of deaths increasing.While natural increase is the biggest contributor to the U.S. population increase, it has been slowing over the last five years, Sandra Johnson, a demographer and statistician in the Population Division of the Census Bureau, said in a prepared statement. Natural increase, or when the number of births is greater than the number of deaths, dropped below 1 million in 2019 for the first time in decades.The national figure also reflects a slowdown in net international migration, which accounted for 595,000 people being added to the U.S. population during the past year, the lowest single-year gain in the decade. The figure was down from a high of 1.05 million between 2015 and 2016.According to the Census, China in 2018 replaced Mexico as the largest source of foreign-born immigrants to the United States.Since 2010, immigration from China and India has either approached or surpassed Mexican immigration levels while immigration from Canada has remained relatively unchanged, a Census Bureau news release said.Between the last census in 2010 and July 1, 2019, international migration added 1,107,000 people in Florida, the most in the nation, followed by 1.022 million in California, 819,000 in Texas, 698,000 in New York; and 362,000 in Massachusetts.Florida surpassed New York to become the third most-populous state in 2014, but remains far behind California, which has an estimated 39.5 million residents, and Texas, with 28.99 million.New York, down 76,790 people between 2018 and 2019, was among 10 states that lost population over the past year, according to the Census. Other states with drops in population were Illinois, West Virginia, Louisiana, Connecticut, Mississippi, Hawaii, New Jersey, Alaska and Vermont.