The Florida House and Senate have passed a bill that would define texting and driving as a primary offense in The Sunshine State.
The state law, which is awaiting approval by Governor Ron DeSantis, would begin on July 1st of this year. An additional section of the bill, which would enforce the use of hands-free systems in school zones and active work zones, and fine offenders, would become effective on January 1, 2020.
As of right now, Florida state law considers texting and driving a secondary offense, meaning drivers can only face penalties for doing so if they are also committing another traffic violation. Citations for phone use can add up to three points on your license, and six if you caused an accident, but drivers in Florida cannot currently be legally reprimanded for texting and driving alone.
This will change once the law is passed. Police would be able to pull over drivers for any instance of distracted driving they observe. In addition to texting behind the wheel, Floridians could get a ticket for “distractions like reading, writing, putting on makeup and even petting your dog,” reports WFTS ABC Action News.
Cell phone use while driving is a primary offense in 43 other states, including Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Mississippi, as well as Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia. A similar law in Georgia contributed to a 22% decrease in texting and driving, and a 3% decrease in car accident fatalities.
The bill received a 108-7 approval vote in the House, with the support of many Florida residents backing its passing. Governor DeSantis has yet to approve the bill, but he has voiced his support for the measure in the past.
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