Will Florida Toughen its Texting and Driving Laws?

Back in 2013 Florida enacted SB 52, which prohibited texting while driving and authorized law enforcement officers to issue citations as secondary offenses. Proponents of the law thought this measure didn’t go far enough and are attempting to change this starting in 2018.

Florida Statute 316.305 , the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law”, effectively bans any text-based usage of “wireless communications devices” including email and instant messaging with a few exemptions. The law states the penalty is a “nonmoving violation” determined by Statute 318.18, which assigns all nonmoving violations a $30 fine for a first offense.

Advocates complained that this fine, in addition to the fact that texting while driving was only made a secondary offense, aren’t strict enough and that the bill was watered down before being passed. The state with the highest fine for first time texting while driving offenses, North Dakota , is 10,000% higher than Florida’s at $3,000 .

According to WLRN News , Boca Raton State Representative Irving Slosberg complained at the time that “It started off as a primary” offense but was downgraded to secondary, meaning officers could only ticket offenders if they were pulled over for another offense committed at the same time. Slosberg also reportedly took issue with the law’s numerous exemptions to the ban, and to police only being allowed to confiscate records if someone was killed or seriously injured due to a driving texting.

Now, Florida Senate Bill 72 which has a completely different set of sponsors, seeks to strike the references to enforcement of the ban “as a secondary offense”.

The bill’s primary sponsor used to be a prolific texter while driving himself, only stopping after hitting a guard rail, according to an interview with WFSU back in December of 2016 when he was reportedly filing a bill to make texting while driving a primary offense for drivers under 18.

Garcia’s last bill on the topic, SB144, failed to make it out of committee and officially died in May of 2017. He’s taking another bite at the apple, but we’ll see how keen the sunshine state is to go after texters more aggressively.