As of Wednesday, the grace period is over. Don’t drive and text … or face a penalty.

The state’s ban on texting and driving, which became a primary offense on July 1, is fully ticket-based in 2020 — so no more warnings or friendly reminders. If you get caught, you’re subject to a $30 fine the first time, a $60 fine with three points against your license the second time, and up to $100 per violation after that.

You aren’t even allowed to simply hold your phone in your hands in a work or school zone. Drivers in these zones shouldn’t hold the phone up to their ear, type anything on their screen, or even hold their phone to read GPS. If a law enforcement sees a driver breaking this law, it now states they can issue a citation, three points on the license and a $60 fine.

The work zone must be an “active” work zone, meaning workers must be present for the law to apply.

Officers must actually see you texting while driving, unless you give them permission to check your phone. They cannot check your phone without your permission unless they have a search warrant.

There are still exceptions — but they should remain that, rather than loopholes. Texting at a stoplight or while a vehicle is stationary — but not a stop sign, since drivers are supposed to proceed when appropriate — is still legal. Emergency personnel are exempted 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, but it’s still better for a passenger to monitor those alerts.

Drivers who text and drive are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash, one AAA study showed. Let’s take this new law seriously and put down our cell phones while driving. Let’s focus on driving safely, not distracted, and work together in being more careful and therefore better drivers on the road! Together, we can make a positive difference in driving safely.