Lawmakers push for tougher texting and driving law

The next time you feel like you need to fire off that text message at 70 miles per hour, consider the story of Trisha Viccaro.   A man who was texting and driving killed her son in a tragic accident, two days before her son would have turned 25 years old.

Florida's law against texting and driving is a secondary offense.  That means police must pull you over for another crime, like speeding, before they can give you a ticket for texting and driving.   State Senator Thad Altman, R-Rockledge, says that should change.  "What we've found in Florida and other states when things are secondary offenses, typically there's not a lot of enforcement. It's just too difficult."

Altman's Senate Bill 328 would make texting and driving a primary offense.  Then an officer could pull you over for texting and driving and write you a ticket.  

Viccaro lost her son to a driver who was texting and driving.  Garrett Viccaro and two buddies were fishing near the Eau Gallie Causeway in April of 2013, when a car struck them.  Viccaro and his friend Justin Mitchell died.  The driver admitted in court he was texting and driving.

Garrett's mom has questions that trouble her.  "Why haven't they changed the laws? Why don't they make it safe here? I don't understand it. It's common sense. It's a no brainer."

Police across our state say Altman's bill would make it easier to stop texting and driving because officers could pull over offenders right away.   Sen. Altman hopes his legislation will become law in 2016, even though similar bills failed in previous years.  "As time goes on and more and more awareness is built, this bill will eventually pass."

Viccaro hopes all of us will remember Garrett the next time we are tempted to type behind the wheel.  "My son is never coming back.  So if I can save your child's life by telling you please don't text and drive, put your phones down, think about it, is that message worth a life? Then that's what I do."

State Rep. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville. is sponsoring a similar texting and driving bill in the Florida House of Representatives.