State legislators introduced a bill Wednesday that would make texting and driving a primary offense in Florida.
That means officers would be able to pull drivers over just for texting behind the wheel.
Right now, texting and driving is a secondary offense in Florida.
“Not all the time that you’re looking at your phone does it mean you’re texting,” Jacksonville driver Quentin Phillips said.
Phillips said he questions how police would know whether a driver is using their phone to text or to navigate, which is not against the law.
“I’m an electrician, so I’ve got to use my navigation, so I’ve got to look at my phone every so often,” Phillips said.
The bill would require officers to get a warrant to look at a driver’s phone and inform the driver of their right to decline a search of their phone.
Action News Jax asked Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran how police would prove whether someone was texting while driving.
“Well, under the existing law that we have right now, they witness it, they see the behavior. In many cases, the people admit to the behavior. We had over 1,400 infractions over the past two years as a secondary offense,” said Corcoran, who supports the bill.
Last year in Florida, there were nearly 50,000 distracted driving crashes; that’s more than five crashes every hour.
The Florida Legislative Black Caucus has concerns about whether the proposed law could be an excuse for officers to racially profile drivers.
“We already have in law, every sheriff, every law enforcement agency has to have a policy relating to pulling people over that deals with racial profiling or any kind of anti-discriminatory behavior,” Corcoran said.
The penalty for a first violation is a $30 fine, plus court costs, for a total fine up to $108.
The penalty for subsequent violations committed within five years of the first violation is a $60 fine, plus court costs, for a total fine up to $158. Three points are also added to the driver’s license record.
A violation that causes a crash adds another six points to the driver’s license record.
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