Lawmakers looking to crack down on texting while driving in 2018

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CAPITOL NEWS SERVICE) - The new year could hold tougher enforcement for anti-texting laws in Florida.

Legislative leaders are now supporting making texting while driving a primary offense, which means police won't need another reason to pull you over.

Looking at a phone instead of the road has become all too common says Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran.

"We have 50,000 accidents in Florida, over 200 deaths. The quantity of volume of this that's going on on the roads, you can't drive down the road and not see it," Corcoran said.

Corcoran now has two teens who are driving. Even he admits that he has to fight the urge to look at a buzzing phone when he's alone in the car.

"Ninety-two percent of all drivers have admitted to engaging in some sort of texting, emailing behavior while in an automobile. We've got to curb that behavior to keep our roads safe," said Corcoran.

It is Corcoran's support, along with the support of incoming speaker Jose Oliva whose change of heart has made the difference.

Florida is one of only seven states that don't allow police to pull someone over for just texting alone.

Gwendolyn Reese lost her niece two years ago this month. She believes that tougher, primary enforcement might have saved her niece's life.

"I can say with all my heart, that if we had tougher laws it would have probably decreased the probability of her dying the way that she did," said Reese.

Concerns remain about privacy. Under the proposal, police would need a warrant to look at your phone, but black lawmakers worry primary enforcement will open the door to racial profiling, a concern they raised when seatbelt use, not texting was the issue.

The fine for a first offense under the proposal would remain at $30, but texting in a school zone or a second offense would count as moving violations and earn points on your license.