By JAMES L. ROSICA
TALLAHASSEE (AP) — A statewide texting-while-driving ban bill that has eluded passage for several years cleared the Senate’s budget panel on Tuesday.
The Budget Committee unanimously voted for the bill (SB 416) that already has made it through three previous Senate panels with just two votes against it. Several interest groups, including AAA and Florida Sheriffs Association, support the bill.
It goes to the floor of the Senate for final passage. Supporters worry it won’t become law because the House version (HB 299) hasn’t moved. Leaders there liken it to needless government intrusion into people’s lives.
“It’s difficult to legislate every kind of human behavior and then try and enforce it,” said Rep. Brad Drake, who chairs the House’s highway safety subcommittee. “People just need to
be responsible for
House Speaker Dean Cannon has also
opposed the bill.
The proposal would outlaw texting by all drivers operating motor vehicles. Thirty-five states and the District of Columbia already have bans.
A spokeswoman for
Republican Gov. Rick Scott, a proponent of fewer regulations and limited government, has previously said he hasn’t taken a position on a ban.
The proposed law makes texting subject to secondary enforcement, meaning police could cite drivers for it only if they had been pulled over for another violation such as speeding. A first violation would be a $30 fine; a second within five years would be $60.
And if texting resulted in a crash, the driver would be assessed six points — 12 points within a year leads to a 30-day driver’s license suspension. Points lead to increased insurance rates.
A recent change to the Senate bill also adds two points to a person’s driving record if he or she is caught in a school safety zone.
The federal government says a texting driver is 23 times more likely to crash than one not texting. A study by AAA puts the figure lower at six times.