Proposed Florida Bill Targets Multiple Forms of Distracted Driving

Law Firm Newswire



Tampa, FL (Law Firm Newswire) August 9, 2019 – Florida lawmakers could soon approve a bill that cracks down on a broad range of distracted driving activities including applying makeup, interacting with a pet or holding a cellphone while behind the wheel.

Senator Wilton Simpson introduced legislation that aims to classify texting while driving and other forms of distracted driving as a primary offense in the state. If it is approved, police officers would be allowed to pull over and ticket a driver for distracted driving without the necessity of a prior reason. Although texting while driving is currently illegal in Florida, it is a secondary offense. This means that law enforcement are allowed to cite drivers only if they are first stopped for another traffic offense.

“Distracted driving can cause serious accidents that can lead to injuries and even death,” said Tampa Bay Area personal injury lawyer Robert T. Joyce of Joyce and Reyes. “Eliminating distractions can help keep drivers focused on the road and pedestrians safe. It remains to be seen whether stricter distracted driving laws would encourage people to change their behavior behind the wheel and help reduce the number of such accidents on Florida roads.”

Other tasks that would become illegal while driving include reading, writing, personal grooming, handling unsecured cargo and using a “personal wireless communications device” such as a cellphone. Hands-free cellphone use would still be permitted. The bill also includes a clause that could apply to “any other activity, conduct, task or action that causes distraction.”

Critics of the measure claimed the bill’s wording was too broad and subjective. They raised concerns about racial profiling and unequal enforcement due to police officers being allowed to pull over anyone at any time. To counter that, a provision has been included requiring law enforcement officers to document the ethnicity and race of ticketed drivers. The governor, House speaker and Senate president would receive an annual report of the data.

If Florida enacts the law, there would be a three-month period where law enforcement would only give warnings to first-time offenders instead of issuing tickets. The legislation’s approval would make Florida’s distracted driving laws among the strictest in the United States. It is currently only one of four states where distracted driving is not a primary offense.

The proposal could undergo more changes as legislators review its language. It has to pass through several committees in both chambers before being subjected to a full vote.

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Learn more at Joyce and Reyes Law Firm, P.A. 307 S Hyde Park Ave Tampa, FL 33606 Call: 813.251.2007
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