Tougher texting and driving laws could be coming to Florida

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By: Mike Vasilinda | Capitol News Service
January 2, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Legislative leaders are now supporting making texting while driving a primary offense, meaning police won't need another reason to pull you over.

Looking at a phone instead of the road has become all too common says Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

"We have 50,000 accidents in Florida and over 200 deaths," he said. "The quantity of volume of this that's going on on the roads, you can't drive down the roads and not see it."

Corcoran has two teenagers who are driving. Even he admits that he has to fight the urge to look at a buzzing phone when he's alone in the car.

"92 percent of all drivers have admitted to engaging in some sort of texting, emailing behavior while in an automobile," Corcoran explained. "We've got to curb that behavior to keep our roads safe."

It is Corcoran's support, along with the support of incoming speaker Jose Oliva, whose change of heart has made the difference.

Florida is only one of seven states that don't allow police to pull someone over just for texting.

Gwendolyn Reese lost her niece, who was a senior at Florida State University, two years ago. She believes that tougher, primary enforcement might have saved her niece's life.

"I can say with all my heart that if we had tougher laws, it would have probably decreased the probability of her dying the way that she did," Reese explained.

But, concerns remain about privacy, and profiling.

Some lawmakers worry primary enforcement will open the door to racial profiling, a concern they raised when seat belt use, not texting, was the issue. Under the proposal, police would still need a warrant to look at your phone.

The fine for a first offense would be $30, but texting in a school zone or a second offense would would count as a moving violation and earn points on your license.

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