Can it survive? Will Florida finally catch up with the rest of the country when it comes to laws on texting and driving?
The 2018 Legislative session began with texting and driving being made a “primary” offense and it has received support from the House Transportation & Infrastructure Subcommittee. Bill HB 33 would allow law enforcement officers to stop vehicles when they see motorists texting behind the wheel. There is still a long way to go and the bill still needs to go through two more panels, including the Senate.
If a driver is stopped, a police officer cannot confiscate the cell phone unless they have a warrant. The fines for texting and driving would remain the same which is currently $30, plus court costs for the first time which is a non-moving violation and no points will be issued against the driver’s license.
For the second offense within a five year period, the fine increases to $60, plus court costs and three points on the driver’s license. I would advocate making a second offense a criminal traffic offense including confiscating the vehicle since it was used in the commission of a crime just like a DUI, but baby steps.
For the year 2016, the State Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that there were 50,000 distracted-driving crashes in Florida with 233 of those accidents resulting in deaths.
Below is the full bill as it stands.
A bill to be entitled
An act relating to texting while driving; amending s.
316.305, F.S.; revising legislative intent; requiring
a law enforcement officer to inform a motor vehicle
operator of certain rights; prohibiting certain
actions by such officer; removing the requirement that
enforcement be accomplished as a secondary action;
providing an effective date.
Be It Enacted by the Legislature of the State of Florida:
Section 1. Paragraph (d) of subsection (2) and subsections (3) and (5) of section 316.305, Florida Statutes, are amended to read:
(d) Authorize law enforcement officers to stop motor vehicles and issue citations as a secondary offense to persons who are texting while driving.
(3)(a) A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.
(b) Paragraph (a) does not apply to a motor vehicle operator who is:
1. Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle as defined in s. 322.01, a law enforcement or fire service professional, or an emergency
medical services professional.
2. Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
3. Receiving messages that are:
a. Related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle;
b. Safety-related information, including emergency,
traffic, or weather alerts;
c. Data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or
d. Radio broadcasts.
4. Using a device or system for navigation purposes.
5. Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
6. Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
7. Operating an autonomous vehicle, as defined in s. 316.003, in autonomous mode.
(c) A law enforcement officer who stops a motor vehicle for a violation of paragraph (a) must inform the motor vehicle operator of his or her right to decline a search of his or her wireless communications device and may not:
1. Access the wireless communications device without a warrant.
2. Confiscate the wireless communications device while awaiting issuance of a warrant to access such device.
3. Use intimidation tactics to convince the person in possession of the wireless communications device to provide access to such device without a warrant.
(d)(c) Only in the event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury, a user’s billing records for a wireless communications device or the testimony of or written statements
from appropriate authorities receiving such messages may be admissible as evidence in any proceeding to determine whether a violation of paragraph (a) has been committed.
(5) Enforcement of this section by state or local law enforcement agencies must be accomplished only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation of another provision of this chapter, chapter 320, or chapter 322.
Section 2. This act shall take effect July 1, 2018