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Ban on texting while driving advances in Senate

Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, is trying a third time to make texting while driving illegal in Florida, one of just a handful of states without a law that addresses this brand of distracted driving.

Members of the Senate Transportation Committee unanimously voted Wednesday to move her bill to its next stop. Chairman Jack Latvala, R-Clearwater, said his original plan was to vote no, but Detert won him over.

"It's time that we caught up to the rest of the nation," said Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa.

Detert's proposal, SB 416, is mild compared to other laws in states such as New York and Washington. Modeled after suggested language from the US Department of Transportation, her bill would make texting while driving a secondary offense, so law enforcement could not pull drivers over unless there was another factor at play, like speeding.

Detert was not hopeful the House would move on the proposed ban. She's normally all for personal liberty, she said, but that sentiment changes when texting motorists swerve in her lane.

"Do whatever you want in your own automobile, as long as you're not taking me out with you," she said.

The first violation would result in a $30 fine. A second violation within five years of the first results in a $60 fine and 3 points added to a driver's license. Six points would be added if the use of a wireless communications device results in a crash.

The bill has two more committee stops.