TALLAHASSEE, FL (WWSB) - With the 2019 legislative session still more than three months away, a second bill has emerged to toughen laws about the use of cell phones by drivers.
House Bill 45, dubbed the “Hands-Free Florida Law,” would bar drivers from using hand-held wireless phones to talk, though it would allow the use of “hands-free” devices. Currently, texting while driving in Florida is prohibited, but it is enforced as a “secondary” offense. That means drivers can only be cited if they are stopped for other infractions, such as running a stop sign or speeding. The proposal would make texting or talking on a handheld cell phone a “primary” offense, allowing police to pull over motorists for just that offense.
Keyna Cory with the Florida Don’t Text and Drive Coalition hopes 2019 is finally the year Florida joins nearly all other states in creating stricter enforcement for distracted driving. “Texting while driving, or distracted driving, is just as dangerous as somebody that is drinking and driving or that is intoxicated while out on the roads. So, it’s time to put a stop to it," said Kenya Cory. “We are very hopeful that this year, in the 2019 legislative session, we are going to get stronger laws passed on distracted driving. We really need to make Florida’s roads safe for all.”
The House bill is similar to a proposal filed last week in the state Senate. During the 2018 legislative session, the House approved a proposal that would have made texting while driving a “primary” offense, but the measure failed to advance in the Senate amid concerns about issues such as minority drivers facing increased racial profiling. Florida is one of only a handful of states where texting while driving is not a primary offense. The 2019 session starts in March.