Several Bills Passed During 2005 Legislature Toughen Traffic Safety Laws

Careless and inconsiderate drivers beware: traffic fines for several offenses are about to get a lot more expensive. Florida lawmakers passed a number of bills aimed at getting tougher on traffic safety during the spring session that ended last week.

Jeb Bush has expressed his support, and police hope the public finally starts getting the message.

Nine of the 13 Florida law enforcement officers killed on the job last year and remembered during this year’s annual ceremony at the Capitol died in car crashes.

North Miami Beach Det. Cora Mann was glad to hear several bills aimed at improving traffic safety are awaiting the governor's signature.

“Traffic is the number one way that law enforcement officers are killed in the line of duty, so whatever tools we have to help us better do our job will be better not only for us but for the driving public as well.”

One bill more than doubles the fine for running red lights, and increases the number of points against your license. Another lets police stop and ticket you if anyone in your car under 18 is not wearing a seat belt. A third bill aims to crack down on road rage by fining you 60 bucks for driving slowly in the left lane.

Motorists we talk to generally support the tougher traffic laws. Many of us have had at least one close call with a careless or aggressive driver. The trick will be getting the word out.

Driver Sam Pitts doesn't think the get-tough approach will have much of an impact if no one knows about it.

“You have to educate people about these laws and the new changes. If it's not put out there very well and people aren't educated enough, I'm not sure it will change much.”

And Florida Highway Patrol Lt. John Bagnardi adds it shouldn't just be up to the cops. Judges have to do their jobs too.

“We can make fines in the thousands of dollars but when someone gets a deal every time they come to court, that's a tough sell for the traffic officer that's out there every day taking the verbal abuse.”

But with more than 3,000 people killed on Florida roads every year, lawmakers hope higher fines will start to make a difference.

Jeb Bush said Monday he is very supportive of the tougher measures for red light runners and enforcing the seat belt law on people under 18, but he says he will review all the bills before deciding whether to sign them.