The state of Florida may be adopting a stricter stance on individuals using handheld devices while driving, as a recently advanced bill suggests.
House Bill 1469, backed by State Representative Allison Tant from Tallahassee, proposes to forbid the use of wireless devices in a handheld manner while operating a motor vehicle.
During the bill presentation on Monday to the House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee, Representative Tant mentioned that the bill was introduced on behalf of a constituent whose son lost his life due to a distracted driver.
“[The bill] was brought to me by a constituent whose son was not only hit by a distracted driver, but completely run over and killed in just a tragic situation,” Tant stated. “We already prohibit texting while driving, this will also mean we can’t phone while driving, and that is while we are holding our phones and driving.”
Tant clarified that even if a vehicle lacks a system for connecting a cell phone, it is permissible to use the phone in a holder on speakerphone. However, holding the phone in hand while operating a motor vehicle is prohibited.
The proposed bill aims to increase penalties for holding and talking on the phone while driving, similar to the penalties for texting while driving in school zones, work zones, and school zone crosswalks, as outlined by Tant.
For a first violation, the offense is considered a nonmoving violation, resulting in a $30 fine plus court costs, totaling up to $108. A second violation within five years of the first incurs a $60 fine plus court costs, potentially resulting in a total fine of up to $158.
“As we know, distracted driving is an increasing problem in our state, as well as my own community,” Tant stated. “We’ve had a number of pedestrian deaths, as well as biking deaths, as well as other distracted driving deaths.”
Tant mentioned that members of her local biking community have conveyed their concerns about feeling unsafe on the roads in Tallahassee.
She also noted that Hillsborough County holds the unfortunate distinction of having the highest traffic fatality rate in the United States, with 67.6 deaths per 100,000 residents attributed to distracted drivers.
Additionally, Tant pointed out that Florida ranks as the second-worst state in the nation for instances of distracted driving.