SEBRING — Motorists cannot say they did not know it was coming; Gov. Ron DeSantis put his pen to the texting-while-driving ban and signed it into law on Friday. The law aims to cut down on distracted driving.
In essence, the new law will give law enforcement officers the ability to pull over a motorist who is texting and driving as a primary offense. The law will take effect on July 1.
“I think that it’s something that’s appropriate and it will make our roads safer; I look forward to doing that,” DeSantis said to the press. “One of the best things about being elected governor was that I got rid of, was right after, I got rid of text messaging and email entirely. Let me tell you, your life is much easier when you’re not always on those things (phones).”
DeSantis said Florida is the second worst in the nation at texting and driving. He cited a study showing an average text takes the eyes off the road for five seconds. At 55 mph, the driver would have covered a football field, according to DeSantis.
Lake Placid Police Chief James Fansler said the law should have been around a long time ago, but better late than never.
“This is one of those laws that should have began as soon as we started using cellular devices as a primary source of communication,” he said. “Or, at least when we identified it as a significant source of traffic-related deaths. In short, I support it.”
Penalties under the new law are $30 for the first offense along with court costs and $60 for the second offense and court costs in addition to three points on the driver’s license.
“Texting within a school or work zone carries points on the first offense,” Fansler said.
Fansler has been vocal on social media about his stance on the texting and driving ban. He and his department are willing to give a small window for grace. He also said motorists need to follow the law or pay the consequences.
“This is a no-brainer for the majority,” he said. “Although I never interfere with the individual officer’s discretion to issue citations or warnings, this is not one where we will be intentionally offering a two-week warning phase like we have on new laws that required a little more education prior to enforcement. We want our roadways to be as safe as we can possibly make them.”
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has been following the proposed bill with interest. FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes said she was glad and thankful for the cooperation with other law enforcement partner agencies for help in getting the bill passed.
“Using wireless communication devices while driving is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors as it takes your hands off the wheel, eyes off the road and mind off driving,” she said. “The Wireless Communications While Driving Law will undoubtedly make the state’s roadways safer and I applaud the governor and Legislature for their dedication to this effort.”