LEE COUNTY, Fla. -- A bill aims to make Florida's texting and driving ban more strict, by making it a primary offense.
HB 33 would allow law enforcement officers to stop drivers they see typing on their phones behind the wheel. Currently, law only allows officers to stop drivers if they have committed another infraction along with the texting. "If I see someone texting (obviously,) while driving alongside them on the road, I can't pull them over just for that," said Florida Highway Patrol Lt. Greg Bueno.
Because of countless accidents caused by distracted drivers in Florida every year, law makers decided it was time for a change. Nearly 50,000 crashes happened because of distracted driving in 2016. 233 of those crashes were fatal.
There are exceptions to the proposed rule, as there are with the current texting and driving law. Drivers can still use their phones if they are:
1. Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle
2. Reporting an emergency or criminal activity
3. Receiving messages that are related to the operation of the vehicle or safety-related (including traffic or weather alerts)
4. Using a device for navigation purpose
5. Activating a phone's talk-to-text function
6. Driving an autonomous vehicle
It's unclear how officers would determine whether drivers are texting or using a device for one of the approved activities, Lt. Bueno said he cannot discuss pending legislation, but expressed the agency advocates for safe driving. "It's a legislative matter, which has a legislative process. We back what's going to make our roadways safer. We know that focused drivers make our roads safer. We want two hands on the wheel, two eyes on the road, and a mind on driving at all times."
The law does not allow an officer to confiscate a drivers phone.