Education period ends for new Florida texting-while-driving law

Historic City News readers were informed prior to the July 1, 2019 effective date of the state’s new texting-while-driving law; however, during the first six-months, the Florida Highway Patrol has focused on education.  The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles warns that time has passed.

Although the FHP has issued 897 warnings for violations since July 1st, law enforcement officers have issued 1,151 tickets for texting behind the wheel across the state.  Since October 1, 2019, 30 tickets have been issued for violations to the “hands-free” portion of the law, which applies only in active school and work zones.

“We don’t want anyone to take their eyes off the road. We want everyone to be focused on driving. That’s the number one thing — just put your phone down,” said Lt. Derrick Rahming, spokesman for the Florida Highway Patrol.

According to an announcement last week citing “extreme cases”, law enforcement officials at other agencies haven’t hesitated to write a ticket.  But, as of January 1, 2020, enforcement becomes the priority.

“We want to make sure that if you have a device in your hand, you’re going to get stopped, you’re going to get a citation,” said Rahming.

A ticket for texting while driving in Florida will cost $30. If you’re caught violating the hands-free law, you will be ticketed $60 and have three points added to your license.

In 21 other states, exclusive hands-free use of mobile phones while driving is already required by law.  Safe driving advocates in Florida say that while they believe the new law has the potential to make some impact, they haven’t given up hope for stronger laws to be passed in the future.