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Bill aims to make texting while driving a primary offense in Florida

Texting and driving
Posted at 10:40 PM, Dec 01, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-01 22:40:00-05

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- (News Service of Florida) Legislation has once again been filed at the state capitol that would make texting while driving a primary offense in Florida.

Under existing law, a driver must first be ticketed for another traffic violation, before law enforcement can write that person a citation for texting while driving.

Florida’s current penalty is just a $30 fine for a first offense, and only 1,800 people across the state received a ticket for texting while driving last year.

During a news conference in Tallahassee on Tuesday, Senate bill sponsor Thad Altman said Florida needs to join the majority of states where texting and driving is a primary traffic offense.

“We know that a secondary offense does not work," the Republican out of Melbourne said. "It does not provide the level of enforcement that we need to adequately save human lives.”

Trisha Viccaro’s son Garrett was killed by a driver who was texting the day before his 25th birthday. Viccaro feels fewer people will die if people know they can be pulled over just for texting.

“Having this law as a secondary offense is not supporting law enforcement to do their job," she said. "They can see someone on their phone, and don’t have any legal rights to stop them.”

Similar bills in past years have stalled in the committee process, without being heard. Sponsors are hopeful that this year, legislative leadership will allow the bills to get a vote.

To date, neither the House nor Senate version of the bill has been heard by any committee in advance of session that starts next month.