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Florida bill would ban hand-held cell use behind the wheel

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(The Center Square) — The Sunshine State could be taking a harder line with people who use a handheld device while driving after a bill was advanced this week.

House Bill 1469 is sponsored by state Rep. Allison Tant, D-Tallahassee, and would prohibit a person from using a wireless device in a handheld manner while operating a motor vehicle.

Bill sponsor Tant said Monday while presenting her bill to the House Infrastructure & Tourism Appropriations Subcommittee that the bill was filed on behalf of a constituent whose son was killed by 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 said. “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 if a vehicle does not have a system where a cell phone can connect, a cell phone can still be used in a holder on speaker phone, but the phone is not to be held in a hand while the person is operating a motor vehicle.

The bill would also enhance penalties for holding a phone and talking while driving, as it does for texting while driving in school zones, work zones, and in school zone crosswalks, according to Tant.

A first violation is punishable as a nonmoving violation and carries a fine of $30 plus court costs, resulting in a total fine of up to $108. A second violation committed within five years of the first violation carries a fine of $60 plus court costs which could result in a fine of up to $158.

“As we know, distracted driving is an increasing problem in our state, as well as my own community,” Tant said. “We’ve had a number of pedestrian deaths, as well as biking deaths, as well as other distracted driving deaths.”

Tant stated that her local biking community has told her that they don’t feel safe on the roads in Tallahassee and added that Hillsborough County has the highest traffic fatality rate in America with 67.6 deaths per 100,000 residents related to distracted drivers. Tant further stated that Florida also ranks second worst in the nation for instances of distracted driving.