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Phones away: Texting while driving becomes ‘primary’ offense

A new law gives police power to pull you over if they think you’re texting, here’s what you should know.

A ban on texting and driving is taking effect on July 1.

In 2016, Florida had almost 50,000 distracted driving accidents that resulted in 233 deaths, according to Gov. Ron DeSantis. Now, he’s implemented a new law he hopes will lower those statistics in the future.

The new legislation expands the original texting and driving law by giving officers the power to pull over drivers because they are texting. This is different from existing laws that only allow officers to cite texters if they’ve already been stopped for another violation.

The law also designates hands-free zones where Floridians will be prohibited from touching a wireless device at all. These include school zones. 

The hands-free zones will roll out on October 1.

What happens if you’re caught texting and driving? The answer is a citation. You can expect to pay $30 for a first offense or $60 for a second offense, plus court costs.

The state said they will run an awareness campaign about the new laws for several months before citations are issued.

If you do get cited for texting and driving, you’ll be able to lessen the financial blow by enrolling in a safety course.

While the measure is aimed at reducing accidents and public safety, critics worry it gives too much power to police officers and encourages racial profiling.

To address these concerns, the Sun-Sentinel says the measure “requires police to note the race and ethnicity of those who are ticketed for texting while driving. The data will then be pulled together into an annual report distributed to the governor, Senate president and speaker of the House by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.”

Unfortunately, simply noting the race or ethnicity of a person who is pulled over doesn’t seem to stop profiling from occurring. 

Similar conditions have been applied to seatbelt laws, and data suggests black drivers are ticketed for seatbelt offenses at a higher rate.

Still, the measure passed 33-5 in April and was signed into law in May. The new texting and driving bill takes effect July 1, so keep your eyes on the road starting Monday.

The post Phones away: Texting while driving becomes ‘primary’ offense appeared first on Florida Politics – Campaigns & Elections. Lobbying & Government..