FHP preparing for texting while driving education campaign

Florida

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The Florida Highway Patrol is working on an educational campaign to inform Florida drivers about the state’s new texting while driving law. 

Advocates against distracted driving believe the new law will make roads safer, but that it doesn’t go far enough. 

Florida drivers will have to get used to waiting to send that text message until after they get out of the car, or come to a complete stop under the state’s next texting while driving law.

If they don’t, they could be pulled over and receive a $30 ticket.

“One of the most dangerous things you could do is be on a wireless communications device while you’re on the road,” said Captain Thomas Pikul with the Florida Highway Patrol.

Pikul says the agency is preparing to rollout out an educational campaign to ensure Florida drivers understand the change in the law.

“We’ll be consultation with the Florida Department of Transportation, of course with our local law enforcement partners, with schools, with statewide agencies to ensure that the education is out there,” said Pikul.

The new texting while driving law takes effect on July 1st, but will only be issuing warnings for the first few months. 

Starting January 1st 2020, law enforcement will begin writing tickets to offenders.

FHP said more than 50,000 car accidents in the state were caused by distracted driving last year alone.

“13% of all crashes are due to inattentiveness. we want to make sure that everyone is educated on that,” said Pikul. “That they know the dangers of having these devices in their hands.”

In 2014, 19 year old Anthony Branca was killed in a suspected distracted driving accident.

His father Demetrius is one of many advocates who fought for the new Florida law.

He said lawmakers missed the target.

“Nothing kills more kids under the age of 24 than distracted driving and they are taking half measures to stop it,” said Branca.

Advocates had originally hoped for a fully hands free law. 

The new law is only hands free in construction and school zones. 

“What we have is full of loopholes,” said Branca. “If you get pulled over for distracted driving right now you can just tell the cop that you were looking at your map and then you’re free to go.”

While advocates against distracted driving weren’t able to get everything they wanted this year, they’ve said they’ll keep fighting for a fully hands free law and stiffer penalties going forward.

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