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Courts / Law

Bill To Ban Hands-On Use Of Cellphones While Driving Headed to Legislature

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Steve Newborn
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WUSF Public Media
Jordan and Brooke Scherer speak next to a photo of their 9-year-old son, Logan, who died at the hands of a distriacted driver

Touching a cell phone while driving could soon be against Florida law. That's if a bill a Tampa lawmaker plans to introduce passes muster in the legislature.

The bill by Tampa Republican Jackie Toledo would mean law enforcement could pull you over just for being on your phone. Now, you have to have to be pulled over for another infraction first in order to be charged with texting while driving.

Toledo says accident death rates in Georgia have gone down by 25 percent after that state banned hands-on cellphone use in July.

" I believe that this law will change behavior - as it has in the 46 other states that have put a ban on texting and driving and the 16 states that have made a hands-free ban," Toledo said during a news conference held at the Tampa headquarters of the Florida Highway Patrol.

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Credit Steve Newborn / WUSF Public Media
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WUSF Public Media
Brooke Scherer speaks next to a group of Hillsborough County lawmakers and public school officials in front of a photo of her son, Logan

"That means you can't be on your phone - regardless of what you're doing - whether you're texting and driving, looking at YouTube or Snapchat or any of those behavious that you should be doing while you're not driving," she said.

She spoke in front of a photo of Logan Scherer. The 9-year-old boy was killed in 2016 after a distracted driver struck the back of his family's SUV while going more than 90 miles per hour on Interstate 75, near Brooksville. His parents, Brooke and Jordan Scherer, spoke at the event.

"We often ask or wonder - would we be standing here today had this had something in place well before our son was taken by a distracted driver," Brooke Scherer said.

A bill that would have made texting while driving against the law died in the legislature last year because it lacked support in the state Senate. This year, Toledo says she has a companion bill that will be introduced in the Senate.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, has filed a measure called the “Florida Ban on Wireless Communications Devices While Driving Law,” which would prohibit texting, reading data or talking on wireless handheld devices while behind the wheel.

It would allow drivers to communicate hands-free on wireless devices.

Also, motorists would be allowed to use handheld devices for such purposes as getting safety-related information or for navigation.