Texting while driving has been illegal in Florida since 2013, but only as a secondary offense. A secondary traffic offense means that offenders can only be ticketed if stopped for another traffic violation, such as speeding.
But as of July 1, 2019, that changes. Drivers can be pulled over by police and they can ticket drivers for texting while they’re behind the wheel of a moving car, with only a couple of exceptions. Drivers can still use their phone while their car is stopped. Florida joined 43 other states with similar laws when Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law.
The first offense will be punishable by a $30 fine, with a second costing $60 (other court costs and fees might apply). Only warnings will be given until January. After that, officers can begin writing citations.
So what is allowed and not allowed? Let’s Clarify.
- Using phones to navigate
- Using phones to make phone calls
- Using phones to read emergency messages, such as weather alerts.
- Using phones when a vehicle is stopped
- Using phones in any matter, except for emergencies, in school and work zones (Takes effect Oct.1, warnings until Jan 1, 2020)
- Texting while driving the vehicle
While this is a step in the right direction to make roads safer, it isn’t foolproof. It will be difficult for law enforcement to prove if someone was actually texting or using a navigation app. The law requires that police have to tell drivers that they have a right to decline a search of their phone.
Another concern many have brought up in regards to the new law is racial profiling. To address this, a part of the law says that police have to record the race and ethnicity of each driver they ticket and send that information to the state, so officials can see whether the new law is being applied unevenly.
The official statement released by the Executive Director of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Terry L. Rhodes states:
“Using wireless communication devices while driving is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors as it takes your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road and mind off driving. The Wireless Communications While Driving Lawwill undoubtedly make the state’s roadways safer and I applaud the Governor and Legislature for their dedication to this effort.
The department also sincerely appreciates the efforts of our law enforcement partners, the Florida Police Chiefs Association and the Florida Sheriffs Association, for their assistance in bringing this initiative to fruition.
Through educational campaigns and Florida Highway Patrol enforcement in conjunction with our law enforcement partners, this law will enhance all of our missions to prevent crashes, reduce injuries and fatalities, and improve road safety for all road users.”
Tell us what you think! Will this stricter law help curb distracted driving?
Source: US NEWS