TALLAHASSEE, FL (July 1, 2019) — Starting today, it is illegal in Florida to text on your smart phone while you’re driving.
The texting while driving ban is one of more than a dozen new laws passed by the Florida Legislature during the 2019 legislative session and signed into law by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis.
House Bill 107, sponsored by Tampa Rep. Jackie Toledo, allows law enforcement to pull over drivers who tap out messages on their phones while behind the wheel.
The Republican representative introduced the bill on behalf of a Riverview couple whose 9-year-old son, Logan Andrew Scherer, was killed two years ago on Interstate 75 when a driver who was texting failed to see traffic stopped on the interstate and struck the rear of their SUV while going 90 mph. Logan was killed and his parents and sister were hospitalized.
Toledo responded to Brooke and Jordan Scherer’s plea to make texting and driving a primary offense.
Florida was one of only four states in the country in which texting and driving was a secondary offense. Drivers could only be cited for texting while driving when they were pulled over for a primary traffic violations such as speeding or running a stop sign.
In addition to making texting and driving a primary offense, the bill also makes school zones and active work zones hands-free areas. Drivers are not allowed to hold their phone in those zones.
“Today, Florida is taking a giant step forward toward saving lives and making our roads safer,” Toledo said. “Distracted driving has become an epidemic and, as a mother of five, I am glad we are finally joining the more than 43 other states that have adopted similar laws to protect our loved ones.”
Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan said the new law sends a clear message that distracted driving is a primary concern for public safety.
“Using a cell phone is a dangerous distraction for drivers,” he said. “There has never been a text message sent or received that is important enough to endanger an innocent life.”
State Rep. Jackie Toledo held a press conference Monday morning to talk about the new texting while driving law.
The penalty for first-time texting violators is a $30 fine, plus court costs. Violators caught in a school or work zone will also have three points added to their license.
Nationally, cell phone usage by drivers causes 1.6 million (one out of four) crashes each year.
To make sure drivers are aware of the new law, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has launched a “Put It Down: Focus on Driving” campaign in conjunction with the Florida Sheriff’s Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association and AAA – The Auto Club Group and the Florida Highway Patrol.
“This law makes Florida roads safer, and I am proud to give law enforcement the ability to more proactively enforce safe driving,” said DeSantis. “Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors and it is every driver’s responsibility to help ensure we all get home safely.”
“Distracted driving puts us all at risk on the road,” said Sen. Wilton Simpson, a Pasco County Republican who sponsored the companion to Toledo’s bill in the Senate. “Put your phone down when you get behind the wheel. There is no message worth a life.”
“There have been too many families impacted by the dangers of texting and driving,” said Toledo. “Whether we are drivers, passengers, students on the way to school, construction workers on the road or law enforcement, this law protects us all.”
“Help us better protect the communities we serve by keeping both hands on the wheel and your eyes on the road,” said Temple Terrace Police Chief Kenneth Albano, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “That’s common sense, and now it’s also the law.”
“This new law will undoubtedly prevent crashes and save lives on Florida’s roadways,” said Col. Gene S. Spaulding, director of the FHP. “With every traffic stop, FHP will be educating motorists about the new law and taking the time to remind them of the dangers of driving distracted. We never want a driver to learn the hard way.”
Spaulding said, in most circumstances, troopers will issue warnings for texting and driving through Dec. 31 to give drivers time to become aware of the new law. Exceptions would apply in extremely dangerous driving situations.
Starting Oct. 1, cell phones can only be used hands-free when driving in a designated school crossing, school zone or active work zone area. Drivers will be issued warnings through Dec. 31.
If you’ve been the victim of a car wreck by a distracted driver, it’s important that you don’t make any rash decisions. Instead, follow the link to the car wreck checklist and put yourself in the best possible position to receive the justice you deserve.
Joe Zarzaur, founder of Zarzaur Law, P.A., a Pensacola Personal Injury law firm, has created this blog in an effort to educate the many citizens and visitors of Pensacola, Florida about their legal rights. Joe Zarzaur knows the ins and outs of Florida law, and offers friendly-quality legal help whether you have experienced an auto accident/car wreck, have been a victim of medical malpractice or are in need of a personal injury lawyer. For more information, visit: https://www.zarzaurlaw.com
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