As the 2012 legislative session gets under way in state capitols across the country, many states are looking to pass more restrictions on distracted drivers with an emphasis on texting.
Florida has six bills up for consideration this session that target distracted drivers. There are currently no Florida laws that restrict using smartphones or talking on a mobile device while driving. Some Florida lawmakers would like to change that.
Senate Bill 416 would make it illegal to text, check email or have instant message conversations while driving, but would make it ok while sitting at a stop light. A first offense would be a non-moving violation and would result in a $30 fine. Subsequent infractions within five years would result in a moving violation, a fine of $60 and three points deducted from the driver’s license, according to handsfreeinfo.com.
Another bill being considered in the Florida Senate deals with driver’s education. Senate Bill 122 would require driving schools to include curriculum on the risks of driving while distracted.
Senate Bill 930 also would require distracted driver information in driver’s education classes. SB930 goes one step further and bans all use of portable electronic devices by drivers 18 years old and younger, and violations are punishable by a driver’s license suspension.
The Florida House of Representatives has a few distracted driving laws being considered in this session too. House Bill 299 is similar to SB 416 above, but would add a strong penalty if a driver causes an accident while using a handheld electronic device.
School bus drivers get called out specifically in House Bill 187. They would not be allowed to text or call while driving a bus. This bill also would ban drivers 18 and younger from using portable electronic devices while on the road.
Finally, House Bill 39 would create a designated official to whom a person charged with using a handheld device during a traffic offense would have to appear. That official would dole out a fine depending on the severity of the infraction.
Unfortunately, according to Hands Free Info the chances are slim that any of these bills would become law. Many lawmakers are against such legislation and Gov. Rick Scott vetoed a distracted driving bill last year that would have required driving schools to teach about the dangers of operating a vehicle while using electronic devices.
Resistance to Florida bills that would make distracted driving illegal come in many forms, but some lawmakers say it represents a government overreach to tell drivers what they can do in their cars. Across the country, 35 states have passed laws regulating distracted driving.