House committee advances bill protecting personal info in crash reports

upset man after car crash
The goal is to crack down on identity theft.

The House Commerce Committee advanced a bill Wednesday that aims to protect the personal information of people involved in car accidents.

State law currently exempts crash reports from public record for 60 days, yet still allows select parties to access the information. That includes individuals involved in the crash, lawyers, law enforcement and media, among others.

The proposal (HB 1151) would keep the 60-day exception in place. Afterward, however, it would permanently redact sensitive information such as driver license and phone numbers, date of birth and addresses.

Macclenny Republican Rep. Chuck Brannan is the bill sponsor. The committee advanced the bill unanimously, marking its final committee stop before the floor.

“This bill keeps the event that generated the report open and available but still adds protections to our sensitive information,” Brannan said.

Though lawmakers posed no questions or debate during the hearing, Brennan explained the goal is to crack down on identity theft.

In 2021, law enforcement in Florida recorded more than 670,000 crash reports which include the information of 1.8 million individuals.

“The gateway to fraud is committing identity theft,” he said.

The bill has come a long way since its inception. In prior committee stops, members of the Florida Press Association and First Amendment Foundation expressed concerns about the bill. Primarily, they feared the bill would obstruct the media.

In the latest committee, Brannan tacked on an amendment that explicitly says media “shall” access the records with the exceptions.

Aventura Democratic Rep. Joe Geller highlighted that the First Amendment Foundation noted they no longer had a position on the bill.

The proposal is among the latest efforts by lawmakers to protect private data.

“Protecting personal identifying information is important in a time when identity theft and fraud are really issues that we all face,” Brannan said.

Stuart Republican Rep. Gayle Harrell is carrying the companion measure (SB 1614).

Both versions of the measure would take effect July 1, if successful.

Jason Delgado

Jason Delgado covers news out of the Florida State Capitol. After a go with the U.S. Army, the Orlando-native attended the University of Central Florida and earned a degree in American Policy and National Security. His past bylines include WMFE-NPR and POLITICO Florida. He'd love to hear from you. You can reach Jason by email ([email protected]) or on Twitter at @byJasonDelgado.


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