Great Hang Up: Texting ban passes Senate committee

5:48 PM, Feb 6, 2013   |    comments
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Tallahassee, Florida -- A ban on texting while driving in Florida takes its first step at the state Capitol.

A Senate committee passed a bill Wednesday that would ban drivers from texting while driving, but there are some exceptions.

You could still text behind the wheel if you were stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic. The bill also carves out exceptions for emergencies.

Bill sponsor Sen. Nancy Detert says Florida is one of only five states without any restrictions on texting while driving. She argues texting behind the wheel is as dangerous as a drunk driver.

Opponents have argued a texting-while-driving ban is government intrusion. Detert says she used to hear the same argument against mandatory seat belts.

"People that were against seat belts, that's one thing. If you don't wear your seat belt and you project through your windshield, you only hurt yourself. Texting is totally different. You're going to take other people out so your freedom to drive your car kind of ends at my bumper."

Stephen Augello traveled from Spring Hill to tell the committee about his 17-year-old daughter Alessandra.

In 2008 she was killed when a 19-year-old driver, who was texting while driving, crossed the center line and caused a head-on crash. Both drivers died.

Augello told senators cell phones kill.

"I'm living proof. I have a life sentence. I have to live the rest of my life without my daughter because of someone who was texting and driving. We got to get this law passed. I lost my daughter. I'm trying to save other lives. If you people have children, you have no idea how I feel."

This is the fourth year Sen. Detert is sponsoring the legislation. It has passed the Senate in the past but has not gotten through the House.

Opponents have described the bill as a government intrusion. But Detert thinks the bill will pass this year.

"I think the prospects are great. I would be shocked if this didn't pass this year because we have such good leadership in the Senate this year and good leadership in the House. The House has been the stumbling block in the past and I think it should be fine this year."

The bill passed unanimously in its first Senate committee. It faces two more committee votes before it can head to the full Senate for debate.

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