Florida is among the last states to implement a primary texting ban. The law that took effect July 1 allows law enforcement officers to stop drivers who are texting and driving, making the action a primary offense.
TALLAHASSEE — Florida’s tougher prohibition on texting-while-driving has resulted in almost 1,000 citations and warnings being issued in the first 10 weeks the law has been on the books, a House panel learned Wednesday.
While no details were immediately available on the age, race or gender of the motorists getting pulled over, a Florida Highway Patrol officer said the measure is having an effect.
“I think it’s a step in the right direction; I think it’s going to save lives,” said Chief Mark Brown. “Most people want to do what’s right. They want to follow the law. But it’s a matter of changing behavior, and it’s a tough behavior to change.”
The law that took effect July 1 allows law enforcement officers to stop drivers who are texting and driving, making the action a primary offense. Since 2013, texting while driving had been a secondary offense, meaning it could be enforced only after cops had another reason for stopping a motorist.
Florida is among the last states to implement a primary texting ban.
Through mid-September, FHP had issued 438 written warnings for texting. FHP and all law enforcement agencies have issued 542 tickets, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee was told.
Brown said highway patrol officers are going easy on drivers right now.
“I would say that most agencies are taking a soft approach, like we are,” he said. “We’re really trying to take an approach of promoting safety and education as opposed to writing citations.”
FHP also has a “Put it Down” campaign underway on billboards, radio and TV to inform drivers of the new law. Beginning Oct. 1, an additional part of the law kicks-in, barring drivers from having a wireless device in their hands in a school or construction zone.
In signing the legislation into law earlier this year, Gov. Ron DeSantis said that in 2016, Florida had nearly 50,000 accidents caused by distracted driving, which resulted in 233 deaths. Presumably, texting was a case for some of these accidents.
Although warnings are expected to be mostly issued to violators until January 1, a ticket would carry a $30 fine. Court costs and fees also apply, and points would be added to a violator’s license.
The texting ban does not apply to a driver using a navigation device or system — or when a vehicle is not moving.
This story originally published to palmbeachpost.com, and was shared to other Florida newspapers in the GateHouse Media network via the Florida Wire. The Florida Wire, which runs across digital, print and video platforms, curates and distributes Florida-focused stories. For more Florida stories, visit here, and to support local media throughout the state of Florida, consider subscribing to your local paper.