Florida bills on the move cover towing, road safety

By Keith Goble, Land Line state legislative editor | 4/2/2014

Florida state lawmakers are working through bills, which cover topics that include towing and safety concerns on roadways throughout the state.

One bill moving through the House would make changes to the state’s towing rules.

Florida law now requires posted notice of a tow-away zone on property before a vehicle can be towed without the vehicle owner’s consent.

HB617 would permit a vehicle to be towed after 10 days without a posted tow-away zone sign. The 10-day period wouldn’t start until a notice is attached to the vehicle.

The bill advanced from two House subcommittees and now awaits consideration in the House Economic Affairs Committee.

Another bill on the move in the House would expand the types of vehicles covered under the state’s existing “Move Over” law. Since 2002, drivers in the state are required to slow down and shift lanes if possible to make room for police, ambulance and fire personnel alongside roadsides.

HB469 would include utility service vehicles and sanitation vehicles in the protected list.

The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill that would create tougher penalties for drivers who leave the scene of a fatal accident.

Sponsored by Sen. Miguel Diaz de la Portilla, R-Miami, the bill would authorize a minimum four-year prison term for leaving the scene of a crash with fatalities. The mandatory minimum sentence for incidents of driving under the influence that result in death would also be set at four years – up from two years.

Supporters say the rule is needed because drunken drivers have every incentive to leave the scene of wrecks. They say drivers who wait to sober up before turning themselves in face far less jail time.

“There’s a gap in Florida’s hit-and-run laws,” Diaz de la Portilla said recently while testifying on the bill. “This proposal closes the gap in existing law by making the penalties of DUI manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death proportionate; thereby, it removes the incentive to flee.”

Drivers who leave the scene of any accident would also have their driver’s license revoked for at least three years.

SB102 now heads to the House for further consideration. If approved there, it would move to the governor’s desk.

The Senate Economic Affairs Committee approved a bill that would provide emergency responders with access to critical medical information in the moments following vehicle wrecks.

Sen. Joseph Abruzzo, D-Palm Beach, said the bill would enable counties throughout the state to seek funding and grants to set up a yellow dot decal program to help ensure proper medical treatment in situations where wreck victims may not be able to speak or are otherwise unresponsive.

Participation in the program would be voluntary and free.

Similar opt-in programs are available in more than 20 states, including Connecticut, New York and Pennsylvania.

The Florida program would provide emergency responders with critical health information for drivers who sign up for the program.

Program materials would include a yellow decal for the window, a health information card, a yellow envelope and program instructions.

Supporters say that the first moments following a serious wreck are crucial, especially when someone has unique medical needs.

SB262 awaits further consideration in the Senate.

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