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Ban on texting while driving cruises ahead in the Florida House

3:52 PM, Apr 3, 2013   |    comments
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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Legislation to ban texting while driving in Florida is cruising ahead in the Florida House with a lot of support and that's a stark contrast to past years.

On Wednesday, a House committee passed a bill that would ban texting while driving. The legislation has never made it this far in this House. It passed the Senate last year, but not the House.

The bill bans drivers from texting while they're driving, but they would still be able to text when the car is at a stoplight or stuck in traffic.

Bill sponsor Rep. Doug Holder, R-Sarasota, said that provision makes the bill more palatable to some lawmakers who might otherwise oppose it.

"It's important because it saves lives. We're losing 11 teenagers every day in the United States because of texting while driving, 330,000 people are injured every year, 1.6 million accidents every year, all due to texting while driving. It's a very serious epidemic and we're looking forward to banning it here in Florida."

Students at the Capitol had a chance Wednesday to see what it's like to try to drive and text at the same time on a computer simulator.

Cody Taylor of Jacksonville had trouble keeping his car on the road - he swerved and crashed on the machine.

Cody says he understands the danger of texting and driving.

"You can't see the road. You don't know where you're going and the next thing you know you hit behind a car."

Opponents have criticized the legislation as another way for government to intrude in people's lives.

Supporters insist it's a safety issue. They say studies show texting behind the wheel is more dangerous than driving drunk.

Rep. Irv Slosberg is fighting hard for the bill.

"It's like an epidemic out there with texting and driving. This bill isn't everything we wanted it to be. However, it's a little bite at the apple and we have to start somewhere and I'm just so happy it's moving in the House of Representatives."

Florida is one of a half dozen states without any restrictions on texting while driving.

Rep. Holder says making that behavior illegal sends a strong message to adults and young drivers. He hopes the bill helps change people's driving behavior in the future.

The bill creates a secondary offense, meaning police could not pull you over for that violation.

It would be a nonmoving violation for first offenses with a $30 fine plus court costs, which can range from $78 - $129.

Second offenses would include a $60 fine plus court costs, and assess three points on your driver's license.

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