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House panel OKs ban on texting while driving

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A House panel has passed a bill creating a statewide ban on texting while driving.

The House Economics Affair Committee on Tuesday cleared the bill (HB 13) by a 16-1 vote.

Chairman Jimmy Patronis was the only vote against. The Panama City Republican had concerns about government intrusion into people's lives.

"I think it's important that if we're going to push laws forward that we push laws forward that are actually enforceable," said Patronis.

The ban is enforceable as a secondary offense. That means police have to first stop drivers for another offense like speeding. A first violation is a $30 fine.

"If you cross the lane or hit a curb or do something like that, then that gives an officer enough reason to stop them," said St. Petersburg Police Chief Charles Harmon. "I've seen them texting. I think it can be enforced."

The ban includes typing a text or reading a text while driving. It also includes tablet computers and mobile phones. It would exclude using a "talk-to-text" feature and would allow texting while stopped at a red light.

A companion bill (SB 52) is in the Senate.

Florida is one of only five states that still doesn't have some sort of ban on texting while driving.