OUR POSITION: Texting while driving can earn you a ticket now, but the consequences can be much more serious.
Law enforcement agencies are getting serious now about a six-month-old law against texting while driving. Starting Jan. 1, violators could be ticketed instead of just getting a warning.
Good. But worrying about a ticket should be the least of your worries if you can’t resist shooting off a message while driving.
The law, which actually went into effect July 1 was passed after much lobbying by people like the parents of Logan Andrew Scherer.
The 9-year-old Scherer was killed in 2016 when a driver slammed into the rear of his family’s SUV on Interstate 75. Gregory Andriotis was charged with vehicular homicide in the incident. He was texting on his phone and failed to notice the cars ahead of him were stopped.
In all, five vehicles were involved in the chain-reaction wreck. Logan was killed and his 3-year-old sister and parents, Jordan and Brooke, were injured.
In memory of their son, the parents started the Living for Logan Foundation to fight distracted driving and lobby for tougher laws. It is a tribute to the son they surely still grieve over that their effort proved fruitful.
This newspaper and others called long ago for tougher laws on distracted driving. Thanks to pleas from other parents and even lawmakers whose families were involved in tragedies similar to the Scherers, the legislature finally listened.
The grace period, which began last July, has ended and law enforcement will now hand out tickets instead of warnings for drivers they see texting. If you are texting in a school or work zone, and are caught, you can expect to get a ticket.
The fine is modest at first — a $30 ticket plus court costs and no points for first offense. Second offense within five years is a $60 base fine, court costs and fees and 3 points against your license.
If you are caught texting in a school or work zone, it will cost a $60 fine, not including court costs and other fees, and 3 points assessed against the driver license.
Area officials say they plan to enforce the law, according to a Sun story by Brianna Kwasnik.
“As with most traffic violations the deputy has the discretion to either issue a citation or warning . . .” said Charlotte County Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Bill Maymon. He added that distracted driving has become a major cause of crashes.
“Our recommendations to citizens and visitors is to just put it down,” Maymon said.
In Punta Gorda, Lt. Dylan Renz said officers will “treat this like we do other traffic violations and allow officers to use their discretion at how it is enforced.”
North Port spokesperson Josh Taylor said their officers plan to follow the state statute regarding texting. “When it became appropriate we would be filing real tickets, that’s my anticipation for how it goes.”
We hope law enforcement officers will be tough on people who text. Drivers need only take their eyes off the road for a second or two for a serious accident to happen.
Just ask Jordan and Brooke Scherer. We wonder how important the text message was that resulted in the death of their little boy.
Just stop texting and drive.