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Distracted driving measure works way through legislature

As readers of this blog know, we have been following the Florida Legislature's efforts to toughen the state's laws which prohibit distracted driving. Since 2013, texting and driving has been illegal in Florida, but police are only allowed to write a ticket if they have evidence of another traffic violation.

Like the federal Congress, Florida's Legislature has two distinct bodies, a House and a Senate. We've reported on the Senate's efforts to draft a proposal that would make distracted driving a so-called primary offense, meaning that police who observe it can pull a motorist over and write a ticket, even if the motorist was otherwise doing nothing wrong.

The House has their own measure under consideration, and it is now ready to be voted on by the entire body. If it passes, the Senate will need to compare the House's measure to its own version of a stronger ban and iron out any differences if need be.

Like the Senate's bill, the House measure would make distracted driving a primary offense. However, to assuage some concerns that came up last time lawmakers tried to toughen the laws, the House measure also requires police to report back on the race of those whom they pull over for texting and driving.

Additionally, the Senate's version of the bill would create a grace period for about three months under which police could issue warnings for texting and driving as a primary offense but could not write actual citations.

This blog has reported on the Tampa area's serious problems with distracted driving, problems which apparently plague the rest of the state as well. Distracted driving frequently contributed to serious auto-pedestrian accidents.

Hopefully, tougher laws will discourage texting and driving and other dangerous behavior behind the wheel. More stringent rules may also help victims of distracted drivers get the compensation that they deserve in the event of an accident.

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