Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley says he and other senators have concerns about legislation that would make driving while texting a “primary” traffic offense.
The bill (SB 90), sponsored by Sen. Keith Perry, a Gainesville Republican, is awaiting a hearing in Bradley’s committee, which has its last scheduled meeting on Tuesday.
Proponents want to give law enforcement officers the right to pull over motorists when they see them texting behind the wheel of their vehicles.
Now, texting while driving is a “secondary” violation, which only comes into play if drivers are stopped for another reason. Bill supporters say it needs to be a primary offense, pointing to 50,000 distracted-driving crashes in Florida in 2016, resulting in 233 deaths.
But Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and former prosecutor, said he’s hesitant to give police the right to pull a motorist over if they are looking at their phone because they need directions.
“I think that that in itself is increasing the likelihood of pretextual stops and certainly increases government-citizen involvement tenfold potentially, by that simple act of making it a primary offense versus a secondary offense,” he said.
He also said he was concerned that in order to determine if texting had taken place, law enforcement would review the contents of an individual’s cell phone.
“These are all things that are of concern to me as somebody who has consistently expressed, over my career, privacy concerns that are grounded in the Constitution,” Bradley said.
He also said a number of other senators share his concerns. “I listen to them. And so it’s not just me,” Bradley said.
The House bill (HB 33), which has the support of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, is ready to be heard on the House floor. The measure is sponsored by Reps. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, and Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican.
Slosberg’s twin sister, Dori, died in a 1996 crash. Her father, former Rep. Irv Slosberg, long fought for mandatory seat belt laws and a texting-while-driving ban.