Florida Senate committee approves bill banning texting while driving

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Florida is one of five states that does not outlaw texting while driving, but state lawmakers appear close to changing that with a proposed bill.

The Florida Senate Transportation Committee unanimously approved a bill Wednesday that would make texting while driving a traffic offense.

University of Florida student Kimberly Percuoco knows firsthand the dangers of texting while driving.

“I was texting like an idiot, and there was a bus in front of me with a few cars behind it,” Percuoco said. “I slammed on my brakes, rear-ended the person in front of me, and the lady, of course, wanted to press charges. And I got a $187 ticket.”

Senate bill 52 aims to crack down on texting behind the wheel by making it a secondary offense, which means drivers could be fined for texting if they are pulled over for something else.

Ben Tobias, Gainesville Police Department spokesman, said the bill is the first step toward making texting and driving a serious offense.

“A seatbelt infraction for the longest time was a secondary offense,” Tobias said. “Now that we see that seatbelts are now a primary offense, maybe this could be a steppingstone for a texting ordinance where it’ll move into a primary offense some time soon.”

Traffic laws against hazardous driving are already in place, but cell phone use is often the cause of careless driving, Tobias said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates drivers are more than 23 times more likely to get in an accident when texting behind the wheel.

Percuoco said she doesn’t want to have to worry about getting another ticket or getting in another accident.

The bill must go through several more committees before reaching the Senate floor, but a similar bill is also pending in the House.

Emily Stanton edited this online.

About Ethan Magoc

Ethan is a journalist at WUFT News. He's a Pennsylvania native who found a home reporting Florida's stories. Reach him by emailing emagoc@wuft.org or calling 352-294-1525.

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