Florida’s new texting and driving law, which was enacted on July 1st, has been in place for about a month. Like many Florida residents, you may be curious about whether or not the law is actually making a difference in reducing phone use behind the wheel and keeping our roads safe. Although it is still too early to recover statistical evidence of the law’s effects, reports on its enforcement demonstrate that reducing distracted driving in the Sunshine State may take some time.
Before the law took effect, it was criticized for less-strict statutes that still allow some phone use on the roads: Checking the weather, using navigation programs, and texting while a car is stopped are all permissible under the new law. While texting is a primary offense, many other equally dangerous behaviors are still allowed. Potentially, these exceptions could leave some offenders unchecked.
Penalties for texting and driving under the Florida law are also lax in comparison to other states — first-time offenders are subject to a $30 fine (plus court fees), and second-time offenders will pay a $60 fine and incur three points on their license.
A Slow Start
Enforcement of the law has not been as widespread as some residents may have hoped. According to the Tampa Bay Times, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that only 36 texting and driving tickets were issued throughout the state in the first two weeks of July.
Police cited the permissions in the law as a potential reason for low ticket numbers — officers may be hesitant to issue tickets if they are unsure if a driver is actually texting, or engaging in an allowed behavior. Other officers referenced the newness of the law, and a desire to inform citizens of the changes before issuing tickets.
As the law is still in its beginning stages, it is difficult to predict the effect that Florida’s new texting and driving restrictions will have on the frequency of distracted driving accidents. Hopefully, law enforcement’s attempts to educate the public will spread awareness of the regulations and reduce the behavior statewide.
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