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House Would Toughen Driving and Texting Law But Opposes Hands-Free Only Use of Devices

| April 24, 2019

texting and driving ban

No need for that. (Brad Lauster)

Law-enforcement officers could pull over motorists they see texting and driving, under a measure approved Tuesday by the House despite concerns the change could increase racial profiling.

However, the Senate is set to vote Wednesday on a different proposal that would only allow motorists to use hands-free wireless devices when they are traveling on Florida roads, a restriction that House leaders haven’t supported.

The House voted 104-9 on the proposal (HB 107) by Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, and Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, that would shift texting while driving from a “secondary” offense to a “primary” offense.

Currently, police can only cite motorists for texting behind the wheel if they are pulled over for other reasons. By making it a primary offense, police could pull over motorists for texting while driving.

The House approved a similar measure last year, but the proposal failed to advance in the Senate.

“This bill is about one thing, saving lives,” said Slosberg, who has followed her father, former Rep. Irv Slosberg, in pushing for traffic-safety changes in the Legislature.

Emily Slosberg’s twin sister, Dori, was killed in 1996 when a speeding car in which they were passengers struck a median and crashed into an oncoming car.

As part of the House bill, law-enforcement officers would have to record the race and ethnicity of people who receive citations for texting while driving, which could allow tracking if certain motorists are being targeted.

Numerous black and Hispanic lawmakers raised concerns that making texting while driving a primary offense would lead to increased racial profiling of minority motorists.

Rep. Patricia Williams, D-Lauderdale Lakes, said she voted for the bill to save lives but wasn’t happy about how the measure could impact the “children that I serve.”

Williams said her son, who is a law enforcement officer, told her “you know you’re going to have problems with those officers not wearing the uniform for the right reasons.”

Rep. Dotie Joseph, D-North Miami, also raised concerns about law-enforcement officers targeting people of color like herself.

“These are issues that we cannot just brush under the rug,” Joseph said. “These are issues that in the current climate of our national discourse, people are afraid to get into these debates. People are afraid to get into these conversations because they make us uncomfortable.”

Rep. Al Jacquet, a Lantana Democrat who opposed the bill, warned of the potential repercussions of the measure.

“We’re going to look, and I want you to remember these words, we’re going to look back and we’re going to say, ‘Boy, were we wrong,’ ” Jacquet said. “While we had the right idea, the right mindset, the way we laid it out created a whole new problem.”

Meanwhile, without questions or comments, the Senate on Tuesday set up for a final vote its hands-free wireless proposal (SB 76).

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican next in line to become Senate president, is supported by traffic-safety advocates who want motorists to put down cell phones and other devices.

Both proposals would toughen the state’s longstanding ban on texting while driving, with the Senate measure also making it a primary offense.

Efforts in prior sessions in the Senate to toughen the law to a primary offense have failed, at least in part, because of concerns about racial profiling.

As part of Simpson’s proposal, county clerks of court would be able to dismiss cases of first-time offenders when violators buy wireless communications devices that can be used hands-free.

–Jim Turner, News Service of Florida

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8 Responses for “House Would Toughen Driving and Texting Law But Opposes Hands-Free Only Use of Devices”

  1. oldtimer says:

    Why is everything always about Race? Sometimes people are just a..holes and need to be held accountable

  2. Agkistrodon says:

    SAD. I did not know Race had anything to do with Texting while driving. Everything has to be about race, meanwhile the human RACE is deteriorating. Maybe soon Cities in Florida will do as Dallas has just done and decriminalize “minor” crimes……SAD Wait and see how that turns out for them. About how condoning drug use and “living” in the streets has done for cities like San Francisco. Can’t walk a block without stepping in human waste or on a hypo needle…….SAD.

  3. Steve says:

    No The Legislature has to go all the way or dont bother on this one. You are complicating a simple request, do not ever text and drive for any reason. We are all in danger because if it FIX IT NOW

  4. atilla says:

    What’s the difference when it comes to driving. Texting with your cell phone will be impossible to enforce and ticket.

  5. deb says:

    “Numerous black and Hispanic lawmakers raised concerns that making texting while driving a primary offense would lead to increased racial profiling of minority motorists.”, well get off the phone while you are driving. The person that hit me while texting was a 19 year white person. . Get over it lawmakers

    Lawmakers that do not support this, vote them out.

  6. hawkeye says:

    any one who thinks that this will lead to racial profiling is off their rocker , I see people texting and driving every day on 95 and each and every one is white, and before anyone accuses me of being against white people,I am a white mutt that calls them as I see them. I have no doubt that the cops will see the same thing and hopefully start ticketing these very dangerous drivers.

  7. Dave says:

    The use of any device in a car that is not hands free should be illegal. Also the officers mentioned in the article, that put the uniform on for the wrong reasons , should be found and terminated and put in jail.

  8. Dave says:

    I believe lawmakers represent the PEOPLE..not one race or one people but ALL THE PEOPLE…driving while texting is insane..about as stupid as driving with your eyes completely taped shut..If lawmakers arent willing to implement laws in a complete manner, then REMOVE them…Im typically not for more govt intervention, but this is one that protects me, my family, friends and those whom i Do not know personally, In essence, everyone on any street/highway (including police) and is sensible.

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