Roadway Safety: Texting-While-Driving Law Takes Effect

Starting today, July 1, 2019, texting while driving is aprimary offense in Florida, meaning police officers can pull over drivers whoare seen using their smartphones.

The law, signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, makestexting and driving a primary offense for the first time in the state. Floridais among the last few states to enact such a law.

Previously, officers could only cite drivers for texting ifthey were pulled over for another violation.

A first offense under the new law is punishable by a $30fine, with a second costing $60. Court costs and fees also might apply. Whilethe law takes effect today, law enforcement officials say they will only issuewarnings until January, when they’ll begin writing citations.

The texting-and-driving law does not apply to a driver whosevehicle is stationary.

The National HighwaySafety Administration (NHTSA) says distracted driving is a dangerous andgrowing trend, fueled in part by using a smartphone to text, or check one’semail or social media account. Distracted driving killed 3,166 people invehicle accidents in 2017, according to the NHTSA’s latest data.

Francisco Medina, M.D., director of Pediatric Emergency Services and Chief of Pediatrics at Homestead Hospital. , says the majority of driving accidents are preventable.

“Unfortunately, collisions are going to happen,” says Dr.Medina. “But if we give a little bit more education and constant insisting,then people will listen. They need to know that this (serious injury or death)is the cost of a collision, and the cost of an accident to you or somebodyelse. I think that people will hear it.”

Texting while driving is the “most alarming distraction,”states the NHTSA. “Sending or reading a text takes your eyes off the road for 5seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football fieldwith your eyes closed”

The NHTSA urges teenagers to encourage their peers to speakup when they see a friend driving while distracted. The government agency andpublic health officials urge parents to lead by example and never drive while distracted,and to discuss the dangers of driving-while-texting with their young drivers.

“We cannot prevent all accidents on our roadways, but it isour hope that by taking action to address distractions today, we might be ableto prevent a tragedy tomorrow,” Florida Gov. DeSantis said in a statement.

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