Sponsors of a measure that would make texting and driving a primary offense in Florida on Wednesday continued their fight for the bill’s passage, even though it appears dead in the Senate.
The House bill (HB 33), which has the support of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, was heard on the House floor. The measure is sponsored by Reps. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat, and Jackie Toledo, a Tampa Republican.
“It will change behavior and save lives,” Toledo said Wednesday.
Proponents want to give law enforcement officers the right to pull over motorists when they see them texting behind the wheel.
Now, texting while driving is a “secondary” violation, which only comes into play if drivers are stopped for another reason.
Supporters say it needs to be a primary offense, pointing to 50,000 distracted-driving crashes in Florida in 2016, resulting in 233 deaths.
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.
She told fellow House members she visited some 30 cities and counties to explain the bill to local officials and was often greeted with applause.
But Senate Appropriations Chairman Rob Bradley and some House Democrats have expressed concerns about the legislation.
It could increase “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,” said Bradley, a Fleming Island Republican and former prosecutor.
Sean Shaw, a Tampa Democrat, said he’ll be concerned if enforcement data, assuming the bill takes effect, shows that blacks are disproportionately pulled over, for instance.
The bill was rolled over for third reading, at which time it will be debated and voted on; that could be later this week.
Background for this post provided by the News Service of Florida.