Texting While Driving in Florida
Texting while driving may not be an offense in and of itself, but it could be soon. This year’s Legislative session has not shown any significant signs of moving forward, but eventually it could.
In Florida, texting and driving is illegal. In order to be ticketed for the offense, however, you must first be pulled over for another offense, such as speeding or running a red light. According to Florida Highway Patrol, more than 1, 400 tickets were issued in 2016 for texting and driving.
While the bill has been highly supported and passed easily through House committees on the way to the floor, it stopped short because of a 2014 American Civil Liberties Union Study which states that Sunshine State citizens of color are more than twice as likely to be pulled over for violating seatbelt laws than their white counterparts. Because the bill would give police officers the right to request permission to view citizens’ phones for proof that they were texting, it violates their civil rights and could potentially lead to more racial profiling.
Throughout the legislative process, lawmakers have adapted the bill to help quash those concerns. If law enforcement wants to search someone’s phone to check if they were texting on the road, they are required tell the driver that they have the right to decline the search. From there, if the driver declines, police would need a warrant if they want to search through the phone.
State Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, one of the bill sponsors in the House, says that none of the other 43 states with similar texting laws has that same provision.
The bill’s language has been written so that it would require police to track the ethnicity of each driver they pull over for texting.