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Activist calls Florida's texting while driving bill "weak" | News

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Activist calls Florida's texting while driving bill "weak"

St. Petersburg, Florida -- Cars speed down the road, but in Florida a ban on texting while driving has not had smooth travels. Safe-driving advocates have tried for years to get a measure passed, but finally, it looks like they'll drive one through.

This week the Senate unanimously passed a texting ban bill and Clearwater limo driver Jake Kletch thinks it's a good idea. 

"If you're behind the wheel of a car you should be driving-plain and simple," he says.

The next stop on the road for the texting ban bill is the House, where it's also expected to gain speedy passage. Governor Rick Scott has also indicated he'll sign the bill.

Steve Augello lost his 17-year-old daughter Allie five years ago in a head-on crash that he believes was caused by distracted driving. Phone records show the other driver may have been texting. 

"I miss her," says Augello, looking at photos of the dark-haired beauty.

Since then, the Spring Hill father has testified at hearing after hearing in Tallahassee. 

"I have to live the rest of my life without my daughter," he told one legislative committee.

So you might expect Augello to be pleased about this year's texting ban progress, but instead, he's disappointed in what he calls a "weak" law.

Under the proposed legislation, drivers can only be cited after an officer has stopped them for something else and then the fine is only $30. The bill also allows drivers to text when they're at a red light.

Augello, who favors much stiffer penalties and restrictions like those in California and New York, doesn't expect the Florida law to change behavior.

"It's weakened to the point that it's almost nothing," he says.

Still, Augello says this is a first step and he'll be back in Tally again next year to fight for stiffer penalties in his daughter's memory.  He says, "The battle was won, but the war is far from over."


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