Fla. governor gets texting bill

Florida state Sen. Nancy DetertIn a first for Florida, a distracted driving bill has emerged from the Legislature.

The state Senate gave final approval Thursday to a plan that would outlaw text messaging while driving in Florida.

(Update: The bill signing is set for May 28. The law will go into effect Oct. 1.)

The bill, however, calls for secondary enforcement, preventing police from issuing tickets unless another offense is observed, such as weaving or missing a stop sign. It does not address cell phones.

Interviewed Monday, Gov. Rick Scott dodged the direct question of whether he would sign the texting bill:

“Well as a parent, and now a grandparent, you worry about people texting and driving,” Scott told a Fox affiliate reporter. “So, I look forward to seeing that bill when it gets to my desk.”

State Sen. Nancy Detert (pictured), author of the Florida texting bill SB 52, has said several times that Scott would sign her bill if it makes it to his desk. Detert is a Republican, as is Scott (pictured, below).

While personal liberty concerns have repeatedly doomed distracted driving legislation in Florida, not all opponents of the Detert’s bill oppose the concept. Some critics say proposed law is just too watered down to make much difference on the streets. The bill allows texting at stop lights, which is banned in most states. And law officers say it’s too difficult to tell if a driver is texting or entering a phone number.

State Rep. Doug Holder, who had the main texting bill in the House, said that the weaker enforcement made the legislation more palatable to long-resistant lawmakers.

rick-scott-floridaThursday’s Senate vote was nearly unanimous in favor of the texting & driving bill.

SB 52 calls for fines of $30 plus costs — as well as points for subsequent offenses, causing a crash and for texting in school zones.

More than 9 in 10 Floridians support legislation that would ban texting while driving, a University of Florida poll found in mid-March.

This was the fifth attempt Detert made at getting through a distracted driving law. Holder made at least four tries.

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