Texting and driving: Tougher rules appear dead in Senate

Update Wednesday: A House bill is positioned for formal passage of tougher enforcement of texting while driving Thursday but the measure appears unlikely to become law as a committee chairman won’t let the Senate version come to a vote.

State Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Delray Beach

Senate SB 90 sponsor Keith Perry, R-Gainesville, told the News Service of Florida he continues to push for the bill but appropriations chairman Rob Bradley has indicated the proposal likely won’t come up before the legislative session ends next week.

“All I can do is push as hard as I can on getting stuff done,” Perry said.

House co-sponsor Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Delray, offered a response to Sen. Bradley’s stated privacy concerns with HB 33.

The House bill “strikes the proper balance between privacy rights and safety,” she said.

“In addition, texting while driving is already against the law, but it’s only enforceable as secondary offense,” she continued. “Since it has taken effect, violations have been issued and I have not heard any drivers complain about Law enforcement officers attacking the privacy rights of drivers who have been cited under the current ban.

“We are elected to represent the best interests of the people we represent. It is critical that do all we can to ensure that we do not lose another life on Florida’s roadways to a texting driver.”

Original post: A Florida Senate committee’s last chance to authorize police to pull over drivers for texting on cell phones comes Tuesday and a House representative from Palm Beach County is imploring its chairman to “do the right thing.”

Florida is one of four states that don’t make texting while driving a primary offense, meaning cops cannot cite it unless they pull someone over for another infraction like speeding. At that point it brings a $30 fine, plus local add-on fees.

Records requested by The Palm Beach Post showed crash reports listing distracted driving rose 10 percent in Florida in 2016, and injuries associated with texting rose 45 percent in Palm Beach County.

Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, has expressed concerns SB 90 gives police too broad a pretext to stop motorists, and opens the door to invasions of privacy in the course of seeking proof on phones. The bill’s last chance to be heard in a scheduled Senate committee meeting comes Tuesday, meaning it’s near death for the 2018 session without prompt action.

The House version, HB 33, is expected to reach the floor of that chamber Wednesday and has the House Speaker’s support.

“I implore Sen. Bradley to do the right thing and bring SB 90 up for a vote in the Appropriations Committee as soon as possible,” said co-sponsor Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Delray Beach. “I also urge all Floridians to contact their local legislators and urge them to support HB 33 and SB 90.”

The bills would make texting while driving a primary offense.

Bradley, a former prosecutor, said a tougher law brings worrying considerations such as “increasing the likelihood of pretextual stops” and increasing “government-citizen involvement tenfold potentially.”

Bill supporters say Florida has some of the weakest penalties in the nation for texting, sending all the wrong signals.

“Motor vehicle crashes are the number one cause of death for teenagers,” Slosberg said.  “Primary enforcement of texting and driving laws decreases fatalities—most significantly among teenagers. ”

 

 

 

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