The push to make texting while driving a primary offense under state law has gained a powerful advocate: House Speaker Richard Corcoran.
“The data is overwhelming and the need to act is equally compelling,” Corcoran said in a statement.
State Rep. Jackie Toledo on Wednesday filed legislation that would strengthen the ban on texting and emailing while driving by bolstering citation fees. Under the proposal, a first violation would carry a fine plus court fees that cost up to $108. If a second offense is committed within five years, a driver would face a $60 fine plus court expenses that could total up to $158.
Toledo, a Tampa Republican who works as an engineer, backs the tougher penalties with “crystal clear data” that she says show thousands of people were injured and hundreds were killed on the road in 2015 because of distracted driving.
“As the mother of five children these numbers are frightening as they are compelling,” Toledo said.
State Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat cosponsoring the bill, said the effort would save lives.
Under the bill, law enforcement officers who stop a driver on suspicion of texting and driving would have to have a warrant to access a driver’s phone. They would also be required to inform the driver of their rights to decline a search of the phone.
“This bill establishes a proper balance between safety and law enforcement and our cherished liberties,” Corcoran said.
Florida is a minority when it comes to making texting while driving a secondary offense. Under current law, officers need to have another reason before they can pull a driver over.