The Florida House passed an anti-texting bill today after embracing an amendment yesterday that limits how police could use the legislation. Because of the amendment, by Rep. Jose Oliva of Hialeah, the bill must go back to the Senate in the last-week logjam of the 2013 lawmaking session. Rochelle Koff, who has been following the bill for The Miami Herald, wrote earlier that Gov. Rick Scott hasn’t signaled whether he’ll sign the bill into law.
Drivers texting at the wheel are increasingly the subject of complaints by bicyclists and runners, as well as other motorists. And there’s been growing awareness in recent years that driver attention to the road is distracted not only while they’re texting but also when they’re on a cellphone call. The outgoing U.S. secretary of Transportation, Ray LaHood, campaigned avidly for awareness about distracted driving.
SB 52 provides a relatively small penalty, and because it classifies texting as a secondary offense a driver won’t be charged with it unless a cop has stopped him or her for some larger offense.
With the Oliva amendment the possible law is narrowed further: It states that the authorities may not subpoena a driver’s cellphone record unless the driver was involved in a crash causing death or personal injury. You can imagine this roadside scenario: trooper stops a car for speeding on Bird Road, adds on a charge of texting at the wheel, and the driver denies he was texting. Driver hires a ticket lawyer, goes to court, and because the state can’t show the cellphone record the judge faces a he said-she said dilemma.