August 22, 2019 by John Fernandez
Roadway Safety: Texting-While-Driving Law Takes Effect
Starting today, July 1, 2019, texting while driving is a primary offense in Florida, meaning police officers can pull over drivers who are seen using their smartphones.
The law, signed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in May, makes texting and driving a primary offense for the first time in the state. Florida is among the last few states to enact such a law.
Previously, officers could only cite drivers for texting if they were pulled over for another violation.
A first offense under the new law is punishable by a $30 fine, with a second costing $60. Court costs and fees also might apply. While the law takes effect today, law enforcement officials say they will only issue warnings until January, when they’ll begin writing citations.
The texting-and-driving law does not apply to a driver whose vehicle is stationary.
The National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) says distracted driving is a dangerous and growing trend, fueled in part by using a smartphone to text, or check one’s email or social media account. Distracted driving killed 3,166 people in vehicle accidents in 2017, according to the NHTSA’s latest data.
“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 somebody else. 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 5 seconds. At 55 mph, that’s like driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed”
The NHTSA urges teenagers to encourage their peers to speak up when they see a friend driving while distracted. The government agency and public 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 is our hope that by taking action to address distractions today, we might be able to prevent a tragedy tomorrow,” Florida Gov. DeSantis said in a statement.