Among dozens of new Florida laws that went into effect Oct. 1 is one that makes texting while driving a primary offense in the state and requires motorists to be completely “hands free” in certain areas.
The main provision of HB 107 – banning texting while driving in the state of Florida and turning it into a primary offense – already went into effect July 1, according to Bay News 9. However, as of the beginning of the month, drivers must not be holding their phone for any purpose when traveling through school and construction zones and designated school crossings.
The new provision means motorists need to use a wireless device or be on speakerphone to conduct a phone call while driving through those specific zones. Otherwise, police can pull them over and cite them for that offense alone.
In the past, texting while driving was considered a “secondary” offense, meaning motorists could only be cited for the action if they were initially pulled over by law enforcement for a different reason, or the “primary” offense.
According to Bay News 9, the bill directs law enforcement officers to provide written and verbal warnings to offenders through the end of the year, giving motorists a sort of “grace period” to adapt to the change. However, beginning Jan. 1, tickets will start to be issued, and the offense will be classified as a moving violation resulting in three points against the driver’s license.
Educating the public
A news release from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles states the department and other states agencies, along with the Florida Police Chiefs Association, the Florida Sheriffs Association and AAA, are working together to make Florida drivers aware of the change.
They also are educating people on the fact that the law prohibits more than texting. It also refers to “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email and instant message,” according to the FDHSMV.
Since the main portion of the law went into effect in July, the Florida Highway Patrol has issued 463 warnings for texting and driving, while law enforcement statewide has issued 605 tickets.
No Hand-Held Devices in the Future?
One Florida lawmaker would like to take the campaign for hands-free driving a step further. Another bill from Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton – who co-sponsored HB 107 with Rep. Jackie Toleda, R-Tampa, this year – would make it illegal for motorists to operate a vehicle at all “while manually holding or otherwise touching a wireless communication device,” according to the Sentinel.
Slosberg, who twin sister was killed in a car accident, filed her new proposal (HB 249) on Sept. 30 for consideration during the 2020 legislative session, which will start Jan. 12.