Concerns over making texting while driving a primary offense

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - Removing the words "secondary offense" from the state's anti-texting law has been an uphill battle.

The deletion was routinely blocked by House leadership, which wouldn't even consider the idea because of privacy concerns. Now they've had a change of heart.

Representative Richard Corcoran says, "So, we say if you want to look at someone's phone, you've got to get a warrant. You can't confiscate their phone. You can't intimidate them to voluntarily give you their phone."

Demetrius Branca has spent the last three years talking to high school students and fighting for tougher laws. His son, Anthony, was killed by a texting driver in 2014. Demetrius says he's surprised but thrilled by the House's change of heart.

"You know, better late than never, but they recognize the dangers of it and they are finally doing something about it," said Branca.

Opposition remains.

Black lawmakers are worried the bill will open the door for more racial profiling. They raised the same concerns when seat belts were the issue.

Senator Audrey Gibson says one way to avoid profiling is to require hands-free cell phone use.

"If we have hands-free, then there's no question and there's no issue," said Senator Gibson.

Branca says he shares the profiling concerns, but he says there is a bigger picture.

"Racial profiling is a real and it's something we need to be on guard for without a doubt, but people are dying on the streets. People are dying because other people are not paying attention to the road," Branca said.

And with the Speaker's support, police, who see drivers texting every day, are one step closer to stopping those drivers without needing another reason to issue a ticket.