Texting while driving: House bill advances to raise maximum sentence for causing a deadly crash

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Texting behind the wheel could land a driver in prison for 30 years.

That's the punishment some Florida lawmakers are pushing through the Legislature if a driver kills someone while texting and driving.

The bill, sponsored by Rep. Irv Slosberg, will go to a final vote in the state House of Representatives this week.

Some drivers say it can be hard to put the phone down when Facebook, texting and GPS are all right within reach.

"Even I'm guilty of it at times," said driver Richard Schmitz.

"I've seen people on Instagram in the car next to me and I'm like, 'Oh my God'. I've seen people almost cause accidents because they're looking down at their phone," said driver Taylor Stearns.

Slosberg says it's dangerous and potentially deadly behavior.

He's pushing for legislation to raise the maximum sentence for texting and driving and causing a deadly accident to 30 years in prison.

But it's not just texting that's under fire. The bill would also punish typing anything into a phone. That includes social media, or punching in an address into a GPS.

"It's almost as bad as being drunk when you're texting and driving. You're 27 times more likely to have a crash," said Slosberg.

Schmitz says the punishment seems harsh.

"I think if it happened to someone today, 30 years is too much.  That's pretty strong, but again it hasn't hit home," said Schmitz.

Others support anything that makes the roadways safer.

"It's definitely a long time (to be in prison,) but you cost someone a life. That could be many more years that they could have had," said driver Alan Crowetz.

"The message here is don't text and drive. Jail is not a nice place," Slosberg said.

Slosberg says if the bill doesn't pass this year he will address it again next year.

He also hopes to file a bill next session, in 2015, that would change texting from a secondary offense to a primary offense.

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