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Tuesday, July 05, 2022

A bill in the state Legislature could allow law enforcement to pull motorists over for texting and driving.

Last Tuesday, state Rep. Keith Perry filed HB 537 in the Florida House amending state law that currently classifies texting and driving as a secondary offense. The amendment would change it to a primary offense, allowing law enforcement to pull motorists over for texting while driving and issue citations.

Under current law, "If the vehicle committed a moving or traffic violation the deputy would stop the vehicle for the moving traffic violation," Alachua County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Art Forgey wrote in an email. "If the deputy also witnessed the driver texting he would then be able to enforce that violation as secondary."

Forgey added that the sheriff’s office supports legislation to make texting and driving a primary offense as a way of making roads safer.

"I haven’t been involved in (a texting and driving) accident personally… but I read the paper, and I read reports, and I look at the data and I believe for public safety this bill is very important," Perry said.

He compared his bill to legislation that amended seat-belt laws, changing the offense of not wearing a seat belt from secondary to primary.

"This is why I think it’s so important — the seat belt law protects you from your own negligence… (and) texting and driving, while it can certainly cause you harm, it really endangers other people," Perry said.

Contact Hunter Williamson at hwilliamson@alligator.org and follow him on Twitter @hunterewilliam

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