PNS Daily Newscast - March 16, 2018 

A fatal pedestrian bridge collapse in Miami. Also on our nationwide rundown: civil-rights groups seek to block ICE arrests at Courthouses; and a bipartisan effort to restore National Parks.

Daily Newscasts

Florida Legislature Split on Texting-While-Driving Ban

Florida drivers now face a $60 fine and enhanced penalties if they're texting and an accident is involved. (Pixabay)
Florida drivers now face a $60 fine and enhanced penalties if they're texting and an accident is involved. (Pixabay)
March 2, 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida House overwhelmingly approved a measure on Thursday that would make texting behind the wheel a primary offense – but the measure was put in park in the Florida Senate.

A top Senate Republican is blocking House Bill 33 from advancing, saying he's concerned about giving extra power to police. Senator Rob Bradley of Fleming Island says he's worried about people's privacy rights, since officers would have to inspect a phone to prove someone was texting.

The bill's sponsor, Delray Beach Democrat Emily Slosberg, says it's about saving lives.

"Let me tell Sen. Bradley something – look, you don't have the liberty to drink intoxicated. You don't have the liberty to text and drive,” she says. “That is not a liberty you have, because that is dangerous behavior. It kills people."

Some senators have also raised concerns of possible racial profiling. So, even though the House voted 112-to-2 to approve the bill, it likely has reached its end this session.

Texting while driving is already a primary offense in 43 states.

Florida's current law classifies texting by noncommercial drivers as a secondary offense. That means officers must see another violation – like speeding or reckless driving – before they could cite a driver for texting.

Slosberg says she survived a car accident as a teenager that killed her twin sister. She says more needs to be done to curb the practice of texting while driving.

"If I decide to put a phone in my hand and start texting and driving, that's your life, that's your family's life – that's every other Floridian's life that's on our roadways that I'm putting at risk,” says Slosberg. “This is legislation that will prevent more fatalities on our roadways. "

Similar proposals have failed in the Florida Legislature the past six years.

This year's bill included requiring police to tell drivers they can decline a phone search. Law enforcement agencies also would have to track the ethnicity of the drivers they stopped, and report annually to the state.

Trimmel Gomes, Public News Service - FL