Florida senator works to make texting while driving punishable by law enforcement

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Texting and driving can be deadly for those not paying attention and others on the road. It turns out, it could also be a problem for someone miles away.

Just about every time Tallahassee Fire Department Engineer David Morrison wheels out of the firehouse with lights flashing and sirens blaring, he's delayed by someone texting or on the phone who are clueless and don't even know he's there.

"We see absolutely everyday," Morrison said. "almost every time we take this fire engine out of the station, we come across someone that just isn't paying attention, whether it be on their phone or something else."

State Senator Renee Garcia has filed legislation to make texting for drivers under 18 a primary offense, meaning they can be ticketed without committing any other offense. For adults, texting and driving would remain a secondary offense, punishable by a $30 fine. Sen. Garcia decided to file the legislation after a hard earned personal lesson.

"I got on my phone and started texting, and I hit the guardrail going into the highway," the bill's sponsor said. "That's the moment I said, 'I'm going to stop texting and driving,' and I think people need to be aware of the importance of having this bill."

Lawmakers have balked at making texting a primary offense over privacy and profiling concerns. Garcia concedes passing it could be a heavy lift.

Firefighters maintain they're slowed down by texting and driving.

"Absolutely, we see it everyday where the fire engine does not get to the scene as quickly as possible, because we were slowed down by a distracted driver," Morrison said.

Lawmakers begin committee meetings on January 9. Their annual session begins in early March.

According to the U.S. Government Website for distracted driving, more than 3,100 people were killed in 2014 from distracted driving.