Florida Making Texting and Driving a Primary Traffic Offense
With the increasing popularity of technology, social media, and the Internet in general, driving has become much more dangerous than previous years. This is shown with 72% of mobile users saying mobile-friendly websites are important, since they’re using their phone when they’re on the move. Fortunately, many cities and states are passing texting and driving laws, encouraging drivers to put their phones down while behind the wheel. And Florida is now becoming one of the last states to make texting while driving a primary traffic offense.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has signed a new bill which will not only make texting and driving a primary traffic offense, but will also ban the use of handheld wireless devices in construction zones and schools.
As the law currently stands, drivers can only get a ticket for texting while driving if a police officer pulls them over for breaking another law. But the new law will allow police officers to pull drivers over just because they were texting and driving.
According to Gov. DeSantis, “Studies have shown that texting while driving is one of the worst of all driving distractions and a recent study ranked Florida as the second worst state for distracted driving. It’s my hope that by taking action to address distracted drivers today, that we will be able to make our roads safer and hopefully prevent some of these crashes that we’ve seen, injuries and, unfortunately, some of the deaths that we’ve seen.”
Under the new law, the first time the law is broken, drivers will face a $30 fine and a $60 fine for a second offense. Additionally, drivers will have to pay court fees and they will also get points on their licenses.
And while the new law is allowing officers to crack down on texting while driving, not all residents think the penalties are harsh enough.
Carolyn Kelly, a Cape Coral resident, says, “It doesn’t go far enough. I think it should be $100 for the first offense. And major points after that… “I’ve seen (texting and driving) kill people. I’ve seen people drive off the road.”
And Eusebio Martinez, a Lehigh Acres resident, agrees, saying, “I drive a motorcycle. Do you know how many times I’ve had to yell at people to put their phone down? I don’t think it should be $10,000 or anything, like for a DUI. Maybe $150 or a day’s pay, something that would hurt.”
With the top three causes of car accidents on U.S. roads including distracted driving along with speeding and drunk driving, more states are taking distracted driving more seriously. In Florida, there were almost 50,000 accidents that were a result of distracted driving in 2016 alone. And 233 of these accidents resulted in deaths.
The new law goes into effect July 1. However, only warnings will be issued until January — officers are going to take July through December to allow Floridians to get used to the new law before they begin writing actual citations.