FLORIDA — Nearly a year after texting while driving became an enforceable primary offense in Florida, roadway safety advocates are heralding new legislation that would mandate hands-free smartphone use while driving in school zones and construction work areas.
What You Need To Know
- It has been nearly a year since texting while driving became an enforceable primary offense in Florida
- Now, the sponsor of the original bill is proposing another
- The “Dori Slosberg Hands-free Driving Law” would require hands-free phone use in school and construction zones
The measure, HB 91, has been filed by Rep. Emily Slosberg (D-Boca Raton). Slosberg lost her sister, Dori, to a car accident in 1996 and sponsored the 2019 law allowing officers to ticket drivers solely for texting behind the wheel.
Since ticket-writing under the law began in earnest on January 1, several hundred citations have been issued statewide each month. Many drivers, however, have avoided paying penalties topping $100 by claiming they may have been holding their phone while driving, but weren’t actively using it.
The new bill — dubbed the “Dori Slosberg Hands-free Driving Law” — would eliminate that defense, at least in school and work zones, making enforcement easier.
“In a school zone, we usually have a crossing guard person, we usually have other people,” said Philip Stuart, a retired Florida Highway Patrol trooper and executive director of the IMPAACT traffic safety education organization. “The traffic is usually slower, hopefully. And so, we might have a better opportunity to look and see if someone’s actually holding the phone.”
Strengthening the state’s ban on phone use behind the wheel could be a bridge too far for libertarian-minded lawmakers. Simply passing a texting while driving moratorium was a multi-year effort, its progress impeded by complaints from some Republican legislators that the restriction would unduly infringe on Floridians’ liberties.
Lawmakers will have an opportunity to debate the hands-free proposal during Florida’s 2021 legislative session, which begins in March.