You have probably heard by now that Florida has finally joined the ranks of 46 other states which ban texting while driving. Up until this time it was simply a secondary offense in Florida. This meant an officer could only cite someone for texting while driving if they had been stopped for another driving violation. The good news is texting behind the wheel will become a primary offense effective July 1. This means police may stop and cite someone simply for texting. Let’s hope it is vigorously enforced.
The Florida Bicycle Association, law enforcement, bicycle clubs and others have worked vigorously to make texting a primary offense. The FBA actually was supporting a complete ban on the use of handheld devices while driving. It is amazing the pushback in the legislature for what seems to be such a practical solution to a deadly problem. The partial ban is what we were able to achieve this year. It is not perfect. We have to take what we can get given the limitations of the legislative process. Even though the new law is effective July 1, police will only be able to write warning tickets until January 1, 2020.Even when fully implemented the fine is only $30 for first offense and $60 for second offense, plus points and court costs.
The new law does contain a ban on handheld devices only within school and construction zones. I agree it is pretty limited. But it is a start and it is what was passed. Every legislative effort is an exercise in compromise. This was no different.
Gov. DeSantis cited some pretty brutal statistics during his signing ceremony. In 2016, Florida had nearly 50,000 accidents caused by distracted driving resulting in 233 deaths (as reported by the AP).
As a cyclist and safety advocate on behalf of cycling in Florida I applaud this first step in eliminating the scourge of distracted driving. Now we need to come together to prepare for the next legislative session.