Tougher texting while driving ban heads to House floor

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A bill that would let police pull over motorists for texting while driving cruised through the House Government Accountability Committee on Thursday and is now ready to go to the House floor.

The proposal (HB 33), filed by Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, and Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, would make texting while driving a “primary” offense.

Under current law, it is a “secondary” offense, with motorists only cited if they are pulled over for other infractions such as running a red light or speeding.

The House committee, which unanimously approved the bill, added an amendment to require law-enforcement officers to separately record the race and ethnicity of people ticketed for texting while driving.

That matches a requirement in the Senate version of the bill (SB 90).

“We just want to keep a record of what’s transpiring out there,” said Rep. Barbara Watson, a Miami Gardens Democrat who sponsored the amendment.

When the reporting requirement was added last week to the Senate bill, Sen. Perry Thurston, D-Fort Lauderdale, said the data collection would help determine if minorities are disproportionately ticketed for texting while driving.

The bills would allow motorists to make phone calls on electronic devices while driving.

Also, the devices could be used for such things as getting directions.

The Senate proposal, sponsored by Gainesville Republican Keith Perry, has cleared three panels and awaits an appearance before the Appropriations Committee