TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Texting while driving would become a primary traffic offense along with talking on a handheld cellphone in school and construction zones if the governor signs the bill into law.
The Florida House vote was 108-7 Monday for the bill, which now goes to Gov. Ron DeSantis for his signature.
The Senate's 33-5 vote Thursday made changed to a House bill passed two days earlier.
The Senate added the language on school and construction zones. Drivers would have to use hands-free devices if they wanted to talk on their phones in those areas.
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Under current law, officers can only cite drivers for texting if they are pulled over for some other violation. The bill would allow officers to stop motorists simply for texting or using a handheld phone in prohibited zones.
9 Investigates reporter Christopher Heath learned that the base price of the ticket would be between $30 and $60, but with added fees, it could be in the hundreds.
"A first violation of the ban on texting while driving is a nonmoving violation and carries a $30 fine plus court costs, which could result in a total fine up to $108. A second or subsequent violation of the ban committed within five years after the date of a prior conviction is a moving violation with three points added to the driver license record and carries a $60 fine plus court costs, which could result in a total fine up to $158," Heath said.
The ban would take effect on Oct. 1. There will be a 3-month grace period where ticketed drivers would get a warning, but starting next year, they would face a fine, Heath said.
“Drivers are passing me, and you can see them looking at their phone. I don't know if they're necessarily texting, but they're definitely using their phone,” driver Mario Taylor said.
The National Safety Council estimates that texting and driving causes more than 1.5 million crashes each year; one of four crashes is blamed on texting.
“I do it. I'm guilty of it, but yes it should be prosecuted,” driver Caleb Danner said.
The bill also requires reports to guard against racial profiling.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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