New House bill could make texting while driving a primary offense

Reporter: Anika Henanger

Right now, Florida is one of only a handful of states that does not consider texting while driving a primary offense, but a new bill in the works hopes to change that.

Shannon Grant and her sister were hit by a distracted driver eleven years ago in Fort Myers.

“Her life was ruined in six seconds,” said Shannon, who is now a junior at Florida Gulf Coast University.

Her sister Hannah is now living with a traumatic brain injury.

“She was paralyzed to the point that she can’t walk, talk or basically have voluntary movements,” Shannon said. “She’s basically like a hollow version of herself due to one little mistake.”

Shannon made it out with emotional scars. But now she is pursuing a degree at FGCU which is where we met her trying on virtual reality goggles meant to warn students about distracted driving.

The virtual reality simulator says that looking at your phone can be the most dangerous distraction of all.

Right now, you have to be breaking another law to get pulled over by law enforcement. But soon, just touching your phone while driving in Florida could come with stiffer penalties.

“People need to put down their phones, or put them on silent, or even throw them in the glove-box,” Grant said.

House Bill 45 would have you do just that, banning drivers from holding and touching phones.

That would mean you could only start and stop the GPS while driving, no pressing buttons or entering in an address without first pulling over.

Some say those seconds you spend typing can be the difference between life and death.

“You don’t want something like that to happen to one of your family members,” Grant said. And she knows all too well.

Critics worry the law could be used to pull over minorities without a cause and be tougher on drivers with older cars that don’t have Bluetooth capabilities. The new bill will be assessed in March 2019.

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