Florida aims to stop motorists from texting while driving

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign into law a measure that would allow tickets to be issued to motorists for texting while driving — as a primary offense.

The current law considers texting while driving a secondary offense — meaning motorists can only be cited for the offense, if they are initially pulled over for another violation.

A new Florida statute would constitute texting while driving as a primary offense. Gov. Ron DeSantis is expected to sign the measure into law, and if he does, it will take effect on July 1. (Christine Holtzman)

The Florida House passed a bill on April 29 to limit distracted drivers, several days after the Senate version of the bill was passed.

“We’ve been very happy with the Legislature passing the bill,” said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for the American Automobile Association (AAA). “This shows that lawmakers are dedicated to making the road safer and taking distracted driving very seriously.”

Jenkins said a driver is eight times more likely to be involved in an accident when texting.

If DeSantis signs the measure, motorists will be able to text while stationary, such as at a stoplight, and will be able use their phones for navigation purposes.

Talking on the phone will not be generally prohibited for drivers, but there will be hands-free areas, such as school or work zones. In these areas, devices such as Bluetooth would be acceptable.

In Pasco County, eight citations and 13 warnings regarding texting on the road were issued last year.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco expressed his approval for the bill, mentioning several key lawmakers who sponsored it.

“We thank Sen. (Wilton) Simpson and Rep. (Chris) Sprowls for their leadership in addressing the important issue of distracted driving. We believe this bill will help keep our citizens safe and look forward to it becoming law in the near future,” Nocco said, in a statement.

Florida is set to  join 43 states that have made texting while driving a primary offense.

Once signed by the governor, the law would go into effect on July 1.

The hands-free requirement while talking in zones would take effect on Jan. 1, 2020, following a three-month warning period.

Published May 08, 2019

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