The sponsor of Florida’s new texting while driving law says she hopes the hands-free provision for school and work zones becomes the law on all roadways at some point.
“Most states with a hands-free ban started with a texting and driving ban,” said Florida Rep. Jackie Toledo, who represents Florida’s 60th state district covering Tampa. “That would be natural progression.”
The law has a number of important details and exceptions:
- It goes into effect July 1, but the state will run a campaign to inform people of the new law, then officers will write warning tickets for a few months.
- Starting January 1, 2020, drivers can be pulled over just for being on their phones while driving. They will face fines of $30-$100 plus court costs and three points on your license, which can be eliminated by passing a safe driving class.
- Police must get your permission to check your phone, otherwise they need a warrant. They cannot check your phone records through your mobile provider unless there is a crash where someone is killed or hurt
- The law does not apply when your vehicle is stopped
- The law does not apply when using maps or navigation
- There are exceptions for using your phone for safety alerts, like traffic and weather, or for using your phone to call
- You are also excepted from the law if you are using your phone to call police or report an emergency
- When driving in school and work zones, you cannot be on your phone at all, and must use a hands-free device
Toledo said this is something that the state house has passed for a few years, but always got caught up in the state senate.
Part of the concern was over police possibly stopping more people of color under the new law, but Toledo said she heard those concerns and made a plan.
“I met with the black caucus, and we came up with language including a reporting requirement last year,” said Toledo. “This year it was brought up again, so we put in that ethnicity and race would have to be reported [by police] and if we saw any discrepancies, we would rectify those.”
Toledo said she’s heard concerns from some people in her party that the law is too “big government,” but she believes this is such a big problem, legislators have to do something.
“I hear people say ‘I can make that decision for myself, I can put my seat belt on,'” said Toledo, “but when you can kill other people, that’s when government should get involved. And 46 other states are doing it and thye’ve seen a drastic reduction in fatalities and crashes, so we should be doing it too.”