Fla. lawmakers pass texting-while-driving ban

Bill now awaits governor's signature

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Texting while driving will be illegal in Florida if Gov. Rick Scott signs legislation sent to him by the Senate on Thursday after a years-long effort to join most other states in outlawing it.

The Senate voted 39-1 in favor of a bill (SB 52) that makes it illegal to read or type texts or emails while actually driving, though it would remain legal to do it while stopped, such as at a red light.

Scott hasn't said whether he'll sign the bill.

Under the measure as passed, only drivers who are pulled over for something else, such as careless driving or speeding, and then are determined to have been texting while driving, could be cited. And in most cases, police and prosecutors won't be able to seek the driver's cell phone records to prove it. Under an amendment added to the bill this week by the House, records could only be sought if there were an injury or death in a crash.

That provision weakened the bill, but the measure's Senate sponsor said the fight to get a texting ban has been long and so it was better to go along with that than not pass the bill - and she said the measure still could reduce the dangerous practice, particularly among kids.

"This bill is still a good bill, it still will allow parents today to say to their kids 'Don't text, it's against the law,'" said Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, who has pushed for the ban unsuccessfully for years.

On the second-to-last day of the legislative session, there was a risk that stripping the House provision on cell phone records and sending it back to the House would keep the bill from passing.

If Scott were to approve, Florida would become one of the last states to have any kind of restriction on texting while driving.

The measure has an exception for use of a GPS device, or for reporting criminal behavior. The bill also allows talk-to-text technology to be used, as long as the driver isn't typing or reading the message. In addition to texting, the bill includes reading or writing emails, or other messages. 

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