Tougher texting while driving ban continues moving

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Legislation that would make texting while driving a “primary” traffic offense continued to move forward Thursday, as it cleared the House Judiciary Committee.

Currently, texting while driving is a “secondary” offense, meaning motorists can only be cited if they are pulled over for other reasons.

But under the legislation (HB 33 and SB 90), it would become a primary offense, which would allow police to stop drivers for texting behind the wheel.

Rep. Emily Slosberg, a Boca Raton Democrat who is co-sponsoring the House bill and whose twin sister Dori died in a car accident 22 years ago, said the law needs to change as drivers of all ages continue to text and drive every day.

“We all do it. It’s a culture on our roadways,” she said. “In the last two years, motor vehicle fatalities have jumped by the largest two-year increase in more than five decades.”

Co-sponsor Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, said Florida had more than 50,000 distracted-driving crashes in 2016, resulting in more than 200 fatalities.

The Judiciary Committee approved the House bill but did not agree to a proposed change that would have required police to record the race and ethnicity of drivers when writing tickets for texting while driving.

A Senate panel this week added that requirement to the Senate version of the bill because of concerns about racial profiling of minorities.

The House and Senate bills each must clear one more committee before going to the full chambers.

At least 39 other states make texting while driving a primary traffic offense.