New bills aim to make texting while driving a primary offense

People who are used to texting while driving could face stricter penalties if two proposed pieces of legislation are passed. Florida lawmakers recently filed two new bills that target drivers who use their cellphones while behind the steering wheel.

Florida is among five states that do not classify texting and driving as a primary offense. Right now, texting while driving is a secondary offense in the state. As a result, police officers can only stop a car if they see a driver committing a primary offense — in other words, doing something else that is illegal. However, the proposed bills would give law enforcement the authority to pull motorists over for using their phone while driving.

HB 47 aims to increase penalties for drivers who text while driving in a school zone or school crossing. The offense will be enhanced from a secondary to a primary one. The second bill, HB 69, would make it a primary offense for people 18 years old or under to text while driving. Like HB 47, the legislation seeks to give police officers the power to stop a vehicle and issue tickets without the driver having committed another offense.

Similar bills, to curb distracted driving, have been introduced in the past. However, they were never passed. Opponents of the legislation argue that making texting while driving a primary offense will invade people’s privacy. Opponents also argue that enforcement of the laws will be expensive.

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