2014 Florida Legislature: Which Driving Safety Bills Passed And Failed?
May 6, 2014
The Florida Legislature ended its 2014 session on May 1st after enacting some changes to Florida’s driving laws but not as many as some lawmakers had hoped. Some of the bills that passed late in the session, as of this date, haven’t been signed into law and some are hoping that at least one of the bills will be vetoed by the governor. Let’s look first at the bills that didn’t make it to a vote this year.
Red Light Camera – This bill was introduced by opponents of red light cameras hoping to severely restrict their use and to limit how funds generated by the red light cameras could be distributed to local governments. The bill failed to make it out of the Transportation committee.
Texting While Driving – The legislature passed a ban on texting while driving in the 2013 session but limited it to a secondary offense, meaning that a texting driver had to be stopped for some other traffic infraction before a ticket could also be written for the texting offense. This bill sought to remove that restriction and make texting while driving a primary offense meaning that a driver could be stopped for that violation alone. The bill failed to make it out of the transportation committee.
Bills Passed By the Legislature
Child Safety Seat – Florida had one of the weakest child safety seat laws in the nation and this bill in its original form sought to require child protection seats for children ages seven and under unless the child was at least 4’9” tall. That would have brought Florida’s child safety seat law in line with the recommendations of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety and laws in most other states. As passed however, the bill only requires child safety seats for children aged five and under. Under this bill, children over the age of three and under the age of six who have outgrown their integrated child safety seat must be restrained in a booster seat. If signed by the governor, the law will take effect on July 1, 2014 with a grace/education period until January 1, 2015, when law enforcement will start issuing traffic citations.
General Transportation Bill – This bill covers a broad range of transportation issues but for driving safety issues the bill strengthens the Florida DUI law allowing judges more leeway in requiring the installation of ignition interlock devices and also gives judges the ability to order twice a day breathalyzer tests for certain DUI offenders. The bill changes the Move Over Law that requires drivers to either move over into another lane or slow to 20 mph under the posted speed limit when passing emergency vehicles and tow trucks to include sanitation and utility vehicles operating by the side of the road.
Hit And Run Loophole – This bill, known as the Aaron Cohen Life Protection Act, closes what many thought was a loophole that allowed alleged drunk drivers to escape harsher penalties if they fled the scene of a crash and waited until they were sober to turn themselves in. Under the new bill, a driver who flees the scene of a crash that results in death or serious bodily injury will face four years in jail and a three year revocation of their driving privileges. This bill will take effect on July 1, 2014.
Speed Bill – This bill gives the Department of Transportation authority to increase the speed limit on interstate and other major highways. Proponents of the bill feel that the speed limit is being raised to reflect the speed that drivers already drive. Opponents feel that if the speed limit is increased, drivers will continue to speed even faster and the traffic death rate will increase. Some speculate that insurance rates will also increase if this bill is signed into law. The bill barely passed and many are calling on the governor to veto the bill.