Fla. Lawmakers Pass Texting Ban, Moving Proposal to Governor

Florida is a step closer to joining the majority of states that impose a texting ban on drivers, with representatives in the state House passing a bill Wednesday by a landslide vote.

The 110-6 vote finishes SB 52’s journey through the Florida Legislature; the proposal now moves to Gov. Rick Scott for final consideration.

If signed into law, SB 52 would make Florida the 40th state in the U.S. to enforce a ban on texting statewide. The Sunshine State has some of the laxest laws for device-using drivers, with no statewide prohibitions on hand-held devices or mobile phones for young drivers.

According to the bill, it prohibits drivers from operating a vehicle while typing on a “wireless communications device.”

The piece of legislation, which has spent a long time in the Legislature, was filed in the state Senate last November before senators finally passed it by a unanimous vote on April 16.

Changes to the bill included amendments added in February allowing drivers to text when a vehicle is stopped and when they are driving autonomous vehicles that drive themselves.

The latest amendment was introduced Tuesday and passed into the latest version of the bill, requiring that a device user’s mobile phone billing records only be obtained as evidence in court “in the event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury.”

Florida’s texting ban, if finalized by the governor, takes effect on Oct. 1.

Offense Charges Points for Repeat Offenders, Others

Under SB 52, the texting ban is enforced as a secondary offense, meaning that a driver can only be cited for it in addition to another traffic violation.

The proposal specifically states that the first time Floridians are cited for texting while driving will not be considered a moving violation, meaning it is not considered the kind of reckless driving offense that insurance companies typically see as cause to raise rates.

Instead, the violation will carry a $30 fine, plus court costs, for first-time offenders.

However, a second offense within five years of the first offense will mean a $60 fine and three points charged to a driver’s license.

A crash resulting from wireless device use will charge six points to a driver’s license, putting the offense on par with crashes involving reckless speeding and leaving the scene of a crash.

Also, any driver committing a moving violation in a school zone while “unlawfully using a wireless communications device” will get charged two points for the device-related violation in addition to points generated by the original moving violation.

Such points could cause a car insurance carrier to give more expensive quotes to offenders applying for coverage.

According to an Online Auto Insurance (OAI) quotes analysis for three major insurance companies in New York, a texting citation in that state can inflate an insurer’s quote up to 10.5 percent, though one insurer did not quote higher rates for a texting ticket.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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