Texting ban for commercial drivers takes effect - WFLA News Channel 8

Texting ban for commercial drivers takes effect

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New laws start July 1 on Florida roads dealing with big rigs, buses, and cell phones. Commercial drivers caught using their handheld cell phones while driving can now be pulled over and ticketed on the spot.

"Florida law is being upgraded to mirror the federal statutes and the commercial federal regulations that are already in place," explained Florida Highway Patrol Spokesperson Sgt. Steve Gaskins.

Truck driver Paul York, of Lake City, wore a headset Friday as he filled up at a Pasco County truck stop. He said he catches glimpses of fellow truckers texting and talking behind the wheel every day.

"It's a national epidemic, shall we say, of lack of attention," said York. "My average weight is between 70 and 80,000 pounds. If I'm not paying attention, I don't see you stop in front of me, I'm going to roll right over the top of you."

The fines for violators are steep. Truck drivers and bus drivers can get $500 tickets on their first offense. Their companies can also be fined $2,750 if they fail to make their drivers comply.

The new regulations also put greater limits on the number of hours truck drivers can clock behind the wheel each week. They can drive 70 hours in a seven-day period. The previous limit was 82 hours.

"Safety is the number one priority here," explained Sgt. Gaskins. "We want them to be alert, awake, and paying attention."

A texting ban for regular motorists takes effect in Florida in October.  Under that law, texting will be a secondary offense.  Drivers can be ticketed only if they're pulled over for something else first, like speeding.

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