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Senate passes texting while driving bill

The Senate unanimously passed a texting while driving bill on Tuesday and sent it the House. For the first time, it looks like Florida could get a law restricting texting. Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice,  who has been trying to get a bill passed for four years,  said the offense "needs to stop, this is the year."

The bill (SB 52) makes texting while driving a secondary violation, which means a motorist would have to commit another offense, such as careless driving, in order to be pulled over. Once stopped, a driver could receive two tickets, one for the infraction and one for texting.

"Everyone is in support of this bill," Detert said. "The general public supports it by 89 percent. We really don't need the statistics... We see it every day as we drive."

Detert credits House Speaker Will Weatherford for allowing the bill to be heard in the House. This is the first time representatives have had the chance to vote on the measure, which has cruised  through committees this session.

The texting problem, Detert said, has become an "epidemic" with 11 teenagers dying every day in the country due to texting. Florida is one of five states without any type of texting ban.

Senate Democrats agreed to roll over a third reading of the bill and make it available for a final vote. "The bill is long overdue," said Minority Leader Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale. "We've lost too many young people, too many people in general."