The new bill seeks to cut down on distracted driving in the state.
Florida Representative Jackie Toledo filed a bill for the 2019 legislative session that would essentially enact a hands-free phone driving law throughout the state. Passing this House Bill 107 would allow law enforcement officers to pull over motorists who talk or text on handheld mobile phones while driving.
If passed, the new law would make texting while driving a primary offense.
Texting while driving in Florida is against the law but it is presently treated as a secondary offense. What this means is that drivers can only be charged if they are also stopped for other infractions, such as speeding or running a red light, etc.
Under the new hands-free phone driving law, texting or talking on hand-held phones will be considered a primary offense. In other words, if law enforcement sees a motorist holding their mobile phone to text or talk while driving, this driver can be stopped and charged with no other infraction required.
The hands-free phone driving law would still allow motorists to communicate via their devices.
Under the new bill, motorists would not be totally banned from using their devices. They are still permitted to communicate via their cell phones using hands-free methods, such as Bluetooth connectivity. They are permitted one tap to answer a call, etc., but cannot actively engage with the handheld device while driving.
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The only exception to the rule would be if a motorist needed to use their handheld device to report emergencies or to obtain safety-related information.
“Distracted driving can have deadly consequences, and it’s time we finally address this public safety crisis,” Toledo said in a news release, reported WTXL.
At present, 46 states have laws that prohibit texting while driving, marking it as a primary offense, and 16 have enacted a similar ban on hand-held devices while driving, according to Toledo.
House Bill 107 was reportedly modeled after similar legislation in Georgia that passed into law back in July. The first month following the newly enacted law resulted in a 25% decrease in vehicular fatalities in the state, said Toledo.
Florida isn’t the only state that may have a new hands-free phone driving law. The state of Illinois will also be cracking down on distracted driving and will be enforcing tougher laws on texting and diving in 2019.