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Lawmakers Take Another Stab at Tightening Texting While Driving Laws

November 26th, 2018 by Jake Stofan

Police in south Florida are still trying to sort out why a distracted driver plowed into a group of bicyclists killing one and injuring five.

The news comes as Florida lawmakers take another stab at tightening the state’s texting while driving laws.

In 2014, 19-year-old Anthony Branca was killed by a distracted driver.
“He was my best friend, he was my conscience,” said Anthony’s father, Demetrius Branca.

A law passed one year earlier made texting while driving illegal, but in order to get a ticket divers have to first be pulled over for another traffic offense.

Branca, says it’s one of the weakest laws in the country.

“We don’t allow our cops to pull people over for doing something that is extremely dangerous,” said Branca. “We allow people to just keep driving.”

Legislation to strengthen the law by allowing officers to pull over drivers for texting behind the wheel alone has been filed every year since 2015, but concerns over racial profiling and privacy issues have put the breaks on any change.

Under this year’s proposal, drivers could still use cell phones for navigation, but if they want to talk on the phone, it would have to be hands-free.

Last year then State Senator, now Senate Minority leader Audrey Gibson told us moving to hands free would end concerns of racial profiling.
“If we had hands free, then there’s no question and there’s no issue,” said Gibson in 2017.

But Branca says this year’s attempt leaves much to be desired.

“There are loopholes in there that allow people to escape by saying they were looking at their maps or something else and to me that is inexcusable,” said Branca.

Keeping with current law, the Legislation allows for cell phone records to be accessed in cases resulting in death or physical injury, possibly quelling some of the privacy concerns seen in year’s past.

A nearly identical bill was filed in the House Monday.

It includes a requirement that the law enforcement make record of the race of drivers they ticket for texting behind the wheel and submit the finding to the Governor on an annual basis.

This year’s bills have not been assigned to any committees yet.

Lawmakers return to Tallahassee for the first rounds of committee hearings in December.

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