Texting while driving closer to becoming illegal in Florida

Bill headed to House floor for vote

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. - Legislation banning texting while driving in Florida is heading to the House floor for a vote. It is the most substantial step yet, supporters say, in getting law up to speed with the ever-changing cell phone technology.

Alyssa Quirk remembers it like it was yesterday.

"I could see him in my rear-view mirror coming and I was like hitting my horn," she said. "I was like 'Dude, look up, look up', and he didn't. He just kept going."

That was the day she was rear-ended while driving on U.S. 1. Quirk says the man who hit her car was texting and driving.

"I just popped the clutch, put it in neutral and the guy just slammed into the back of me and I kept rolling," she said. She was 8 months pregnant at the time and she escaped unharmed.

That is the kind of collision that some lawmakers are now more than ever working to prevent. In Tallahassee, a House panel passed a bill that would create a statewide ban on texting while driving. Such legislation has been filed every year since 2008, but this will the be the first time it goes to the House floor.

"Our legislature didn't want to keep up with technology," said Sen. Maria Sachs, a Democrat, representing District 34. Sachs is pushing a similar bill on the Senate side. "Part of it is the short-sightedness on the side of our legislators of not wanting to get up to speed with the rest of the country," she said.

Daniel Quirk is a semi-truck driver who travels much the country, including through many of the 39 states that already have such texting and driving bans. "It's a really good idea," he said. "Unfortunately, it's really hard to enforce."

The Florida ban would be enforceable as a secondary offense, meaning police would first have to stop drivers for another offense like speeding.

A first violation would carry a $30 fine. A vote in the House is next week. A vote on the Senate floor, if it makes it there, would likely happen in the next couple of weeks.

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