PANAMA CITY, Fla. -This past week, new legislation regarding texting and driving was signed into law. Now, texting at the wheel moves from a secondary offense to a primary offense.
For years, a number of different bills regarding texting and driving have been discussed but none have passed until this year. Now instead of texting and driving as an additional charge at a traffic stop, officers can pull you over if they see the phone in your hand.
“What’s changed with this law is texting is now a primary offense which means that we can stop you and we can conduct a traffic stop and write a citation because you’re texting and driving,” said Florida Highway Patrol Lieutenant, Eddie Elmore.
Officers said texting and driving can cost you. “It could be up to $165 fine plus 3 points on your license which impacts your insurance and your wallet,” said Elmore.
Texting and driving will be illegal throughout the entire state. Talking on the phone is still allowed, but in construction zones or school zones, you must be handsfree.
Florida is just one of the many states putting a ban on texting behind the wheel and making the roads a little safer.
In 2018, 1,010 crashes were attributed to distracted driving, 59 of those resulting in serious injuries, and 3 of those accidents were fatal.
“Now, we can be a little more proactive in stopping this behavior and educating this behavior before an incident occurs,” said Elmore.
The new law will become active July 1st, but officers will use July through December as an educational period so people can familiarize themselves with the new law.
“What we’re going to do is have an educational time frame from July to December which gives the public time to learn the law, get educated with the new law, so that we can start having a reduction in crashes and get rid of some of this distracted driving that we have out on the roadways,” said Elmore.