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Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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Texting While Driving: Enforcement Begins Today on Florida's New Law


TAPMA, FL – Law enforcement officers can now pull over Florida drivers and ticket them for texting while driving. It is now a primary offense to text from a moving vehicle; this includes emailing and other forms of typing on a mobile device.

What are the penalties? 

First conviction: Non-moving traffic violation. $30 fine and no points on your license.

Second conviction (within five years):  Moving violation with base fine of $60 and three points on your license.

Third and subsequent convictions: Moving violation with base fine of $60 and three points on your license.

What is permitted?

Messages related to navigation or safety such as emergency traffic and weather alerts are permitted.

Drivers can use their phone to report a traffic incident, medical emergency, fire/crime or hazardous roads.

AAA supports the new Law

In 2018, there were more than 51,000 crashes involving a distracted driver in Florida. On average, that is 140 crashes every single day. 

Five seconds is the average time a driver’s eyes are off the road while texting. At 55 mph, that would be the equivalent of driving the length of a football field, blind.

A recent AAA study found that 78 percent of Americans say texting while driving is a significant danger, yet 35 percent still admit to doing it.

"Drivers who text are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash," said Mark Jenkins, spokesman, AAA - The Auto Club Group. "Typing on the phone diverts drivers' attention away from the road, and endangers the lives of all motorists. AAA urges drivers to put the phone down and focus on the road. Hopefully the threat of being caught will be enough for drivers to change this dangerous habit, before something bad happens to them or anyone else."

Is it better to use hands-free technology?

Florida law allows hands-free voice-based texting, but AAA warns this still poses a dangerous distraction for drivers. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for up to 27 seconds after using voice commands to change music, dial a phone number or send a text. In 27 seconds, drivers traveling 25 mph cross the length of three football fields. 

"Just because you can use hands-free technology doesn't mean you should," Jenkins said. "AAA research shows that drivers who use voice-based technology are still distracted. When using this technology, your hands are on the wheel and eyes on the road, but your mind may not be on the task of driving. AAA urges drivers to minimize all distractions while behind the wheel, and focus on the road."

Law Regarding Handheld Cell Phone Use

Handheld cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle in a designated school crossing, school zone or road work zone is also prohibited. However, the handheld ban does not go into effect the same time as the texting ban. Officers will begin issuing warnings on October 1, then fines beginning January 1, 2020.

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