TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (NEWS SERVICE FLORIDA) - A bill that would toughen the state’s texting-while-driving law was formally sent Thursday to Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has voiced support for the proposal.
The bill (HB 107), a compromise passed by the House and Senate in late April, would make texting while driving a “primary” traffic offense on July 1. However, the change would be phased in, according to the bill, with warnings issued starting Oct. 1 and tickets beginning Jan. 1.
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 solely for texting while driving. The bill also would require that motorists use hands-free wireless devices in school zones and work zones.
DeSantis said last month that he supported efforts to make texting while driving a primary offense. “This stuff has got to be enforceable,” the governor said April 24. “If it’s a primary offense, then people are going to get pulled over. So, you’ve got to make sure that is going to happen. The more you go beyond texting, I just have concerns about the administrability of it.”
Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Trilby Republican who spearheaded the issue in the Senate, had sought to make the hands-free requirement statewide.
The bill also would prohibit law-enforcement officers from accessing or confiscating wireless devices without warrants.
And to address concerns about racial profiling, the bill would require officers to record the race and ethnicity of texting-while-driving violators, with annual reports on the issue submitted to the governor, Senate president and House speaker starting Feb. 1. DeSantis will have until May 30 to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.
The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.