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Texting while driving is now a primary offense in Florida

Most people these days understand that using a cellphone while behind the wheel is risky. Texting and driving is an unsafe and dangerous practice that leaves drivers, passengers and pedestrians at danger. According to reports, there were almost 50,000 distracted driver-related motor vehicle crashes in Florida in 2016. In that year an estimated 233 people were killed and as many as 3,500 were seriously injured due to these crashes.

However, the good news for the residents of Florida is that a new state law that prohibits texting and driving and makes it a primary offense passed last week. Many believe that it will greatly reinforce the state’s law against texting and driving, because it allows law enforcement authorities to stop a vehicle and ticket the driver just for texting. The law goes into effect first day of July this year. With this, Florida becomes the 44th state to pass such a primary traffic offense for all drivers. Earlier, texting and driving was a secondary offense in Florida, which means drivers could only be ticketed for the act if pulled over for a separate violation.

Under the new law, drivers who commit a first offense would be fined $30 and court fees. For a subsequent offense committed within five years, the penalty would be $60 plus court fees and three points on their driver’s license. In the case of a crash due to texting and driving, it’s six points on one’s driver’s license.

Because school and work zones more susceptible to accidents, the new law bans the use of any kind of handheld wireless communications devices in these areas. The drivers could be fined for using any wireless communication device in these restricted zones. However, for the next six months, law enforcement officers will only stop and issue verbal warnings about it and, starting January 1, they will start ticketing for violations in school and work zones.

We expect the new law will bring more discipline and transform the unsafe driving habits of drivers in Florida.

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