Distracted driving bill advances—but without hands-free provision

A bill aimed at stopping distracted driving advanced in the Senate on Monday, but advocates who want drivers limited to hands-free devices expressed frustration and said the bill has been watered down.

Sen. Wilton Simpson, sponsor for the bill (SB 76), stressed that the legislation has gone through substantial changes with two major amendments. But more shifts will come so long as the bill moves forward.

“For the parents hoping more for hands-free than texting and driving, this is a process,” the Trilby Republican said. “Remember, this is a work in progress.”

But Demetrius Branca, president of the Anthony Phoenix Branca Foundation, said the current legislation leaves Florida desperately behind.

His son, Anthony, died in a Tallahassee crash in 2014 when a van struck his motorcycle. The driver was distracted at the time.

“Maybe you do not understand the urgency,” Branca told senators. “Maybe you have not lived my nightmares.”

Sixteen other states and the District of Columbia have hands-free laws, Branca and other parents stressed. That includes neighboring Georgia.

But Judiciary Committee Chairman David Simmons offered an amendment putting the legislation more in line with a House bill (HB 107).

The Longwood Republican said

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