A Senate bill that would allow police to pull over motorists they see texting while driving has already cleared two committee stops, and on Tuesday a coalition of law enforcement, business, local governments and individuals is urging its final committee stop to approve give it the final stamp of approval before its ready for the chamber floor.
“On behalf of the many families who have been negatively impacted by Florida drivers who use wireless communications devices while driving, our coalition asks members of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation, Tourism and Economic Development to pass SB 90,” said Keyna Cory, coordinator of the FL DNT TXT N DRV Coalition. “Millions of Floridians want texting while driving to be a primary offense, and this good bill goes a long way in allowing law enforcement to stop this bad behavior in its tracks.”
The coalition pulled on statistics from the National Safety Council, which claims more than 100,000 crashes a year involve drivers who are texting, and many of those accidents cause life-changing injuries and deaths.
Another study from Virginia Tech Transportation Institute Research found those who text and drive are twice as likely to be involved in a crash or near-crash.
“Distracted driving is an epidemic, a public safety and public health issue, and must be addressed as such,” said Gwendolyn Reese, whose loved one was killed in Tallahassee in 2015 by a young woman who was texting while driving 89 mph. “This epidemic is affecting everyone across gender, age and ethnicity. By making the law a primary offense you will have taken a major step toward making Florida’s roads safe for everyone.”
Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) regional manager Logan McFaddin echoed the call for making texting while driving a primary offense.
“We all witness this bad habit occurring daily as we go about our routine activities, and those that choose to text and drive aren’t only putting themselves in harm’s way, they are also putting everyone else who shares the roads in danger,” he said. “It is time for Florida to step up and pass this meaningful legislation that would reduce this hazardous behavior and save lives.”
Lawmakers in 2013 passed a bill to make texting while driving a “secondary offense” that could be tacked on to other moving violations such as speeding, but the measure put forward this year via SB 90 and its House counterpart, HB 33, would allow police to pull over texting motorists even if they aren’t breaking another rule of the road.
SB 90, sponsored by Gainesville Republican Sen. Keith Perry, cleared the Senate Transportation Committee during the first week of the 2018 Legislative Session, and had previously made it through Communications, Energy and Public Utilities during an October interim committee week.
HB 33 has cleared its committee stop and is awaiting a hearing in the House Judiciary Committee, also its final committee stop.