Today, Florida became the 45th state to make texting while driving a primary traffic offense, which means you can be stopped by a law enforcement officer solely on suspicion of texting while driving. Law Enforcement agencies across Florida will now begin cracking down on drivers by giving warnings, or actual citations, to those who use their cellphones for texting.
The new law also bans the use of a handheld cell phone while driving a motor vehicle in a designated school crossing, school zone, or a road work zone. Hands-free methods are still legal. The ban on handheld use in school and work zones can begin to be enforced beginning Oct. 1, with an education period of warnings until Jan. 1, when fines will begin to be imposed on offenders.
Some law enforcement agencies are observing a grace period and handing out warnings until January 2020 but drivers should be aware that depends on the agency and you can be ticketed. A driver can offer to show an officer their phone in order to make their case if they are about to be cited, however the officer can’t ask to see the phone, according to the new law.
Beginning January 1, 2020, motorists who are stopped and ticketed for texting while driving, or using their phone in any way in school and work zones will begin receiving fines. A first violation of texting while driving carries a $30 fine, a second violation, it’s $60 and three points. Court costs could take the price of any violation to more than $100, not to mention how insurance rates will be affected after an offense.
So, what is still legal when it comes to cell phone use in vehicles? Texting at a stoplight or while a vehicle is stationary is still legal. Imagine enforcing that if you are the law enforcement officer. Emergency personnel are exempt from the law, as are individuals who are reporting an emergency or criminal activity to law enforcement.
Those receiving messages pertaining to the navigation or operation of their vehicle, or safety-related information such as emergency traffic or weather alerts, are still permitted in the State of Florida.
Ignoring the fact that texting and driving kills more young drivers than drinking and driving has finally come to an end in Florida, so let’s take this new law seriously and put down our cell phones while driving. Let’s focus on driving safely, not while distracted, and let’s work together to save lives on the road!