Florida texting while driving ban on the way? Bill discussed by lawmakers

TALLAHASSEE -- A bill that would ban texting while driving was approved in its first committee Wednesday, but only after lawmakers added some exceptions.

The Senate Transportation Committee amended the bill (SB 52) by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, to allow texting while a driver is stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic.

This is the fourth year Detert has sponsored a texting ban. She said it's embarrassing that Florida is one of just a few states with no limits on texting while driving.

Steve Augello traveled from Spring Hill to tell lawmakers about his 17-year-old daughter, Alessandra, who was killed in 2008 when a driver crossed the center line while texting and caused a head-on crash.

"It kills. I'm living proof," he said. "I have a life sentence. I have to live the rest of my life without my daughter because of someone who was texting and driving.  We've got to get this law passed." 

Sen. Greg Evers, R-Crestview, said lawmakers must change with the times, as they had when requiring the use of seat belts. 

"I just find it hard to believe that so many folks have had to die," Evers said. "I, too, was one that would not support the seat belt. But by education – my son, when he crawls in a vehicle, that's the first thing he does." 

Sen. Tom Lee, R-Brandon, wanted to know why the bill didn't make texting a primary offense instead of a secondary one.

"So you would consider it careless?" he asked. "Beyond careless. I would consider it reckless," Detert replied. "In the four years we have been doing this bill, we have found that it makes it more passable to make it a secondary offense."