Texting while driving would be a new moving violation under a bill approved by a Senate committee this morning over the objections of Sen. Joe Negron, who said distracted drivers can already be punished under existing law.
Negron cast the sole “no” vote on the measure (SB 416) which would make texting and driving a secondary offense – meaning police could not ticket drivers unless they are pulled over for another reason – punishable by a minimum $30 fine and a six-point drivers license violation if it results results in an accident.
Florida law already includes a reckless driving – which carries a minimum $25 fine and can result in prison sentences –moving violation, which should cover problematic texting, Negron argued. That means law enforcement officers can now pull over “someone weaving down the road while they’re texting” and give them a ticket, said Negron, a lawyer.
And it would be difficult for authorities to determine if someone texting just because they are using an electronic device, Negron said.
“What if I was just looking at my Blackberry to get the address of where I’m driving to. Is that texting because I punched a number and something came up for me to read? What about navigation devices? To me there are legitimate uses of electronic device while you’re driving. Texting is not one of them,” Negron said.
The bill is based on a sample law provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation, encouraging states to enact legislation to ban texting and driving. The Senate Communications, Energy and Public Utilities Committee approved the measure, sponsored by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, by a 12-1 vote this morning.
Negron said lawmakers need to be careful before creating new crimes, which he said they have done too often in the past.
“I think if we would simply enforce the careless driving law that we already have that that would send a message to stop that,” he said.