PANAMA CITY, Fla. (WMBB) — It’s been over a year since Florida made texting and driving a primary offense; now, when it comes to texting behind the wheel, local law enforcement says the grace period for friendly warnings has ended.
“They’re starting to issue citations instead of warnings,” said Panama City Police Department Cpl. Preston Allyn on Thursday. “We’ve written about five over the past two months, we’ve actually issued citations for it and there’s been more prior to that.”
He said that nearly 70 traffic stops have been made with regard to texting and driving so far, but most of those resulted in warnings. Now, officers are starting to write more tickets.
Since the law was put into effect in July 2019, he said that so far it seems to be working to curb distracted driving.
“We’re not seeing it quite as much as we did before,” he said. “We’re not seeing quite as many inattentive driver crashes.”
However, he said it still happens too often; the cost sometimes being far greater than any ticket.
“I had two [cases] that come to my mind that were texting while driving and they ended up losing their life because of it,” Cpl. Allyn said.
He said sending that text will never be more important than someone’s life, and if it is important, to use a hands-free device or even pull over.
“Nobody wants to get in a crash and especially hurt or kill someone,” he said. “You’ll have to live with that for the rest of your life.”
Texting and driving continues to be a primary offense throughout the state, meaning if police can see it, the offender can be pulled over and will have to pay a fine if a citation is issued.
“Our ultimate goal is public safety, we’re not out there to write tickets,” said Cpl. Allyn. “We get nothing from tickets, it’s not that we get funded from that type of thing, so there’s nothing that we gain from writing tickets other than the reason we do is to gain compliance because we don’t want to go have to tell your loved ones that you’re not going to return home.”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2018, nearly three thousand people died in the United States from distracted-driving related accidents.