Gov. DeSantis signs texting and driving ban into law

Sarasota County

Soon, you’ll need to put down the phone when you’re behind the wheel. On Friday, Governor DeSantis signed a bill banning texting while driving.

The governor was in Sarasota for the historic announcement.

Debbie and Rick Wanninkhof have dedicated their lives to this fight. It was something they never wished for, but now feel compelled to do.

“Something has to be done. It’s way too dangerous,” said Rick.

In 2015, their son Patrick was on a charity cycling trip when he was hit and killed by a distracted driver.

“Our hope is that the culture around distracted driving will change,” said Debbie.

Their dream came one step closer today when Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill banning texting while driving.

“When folks are doing that behind the wheel, you can see people really lose control of the vehicle. I’ve seen it on the road and we don’t want to put people at risk,” said DeSantis.

Here are somes facts about the new law:

  • 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 Jan. 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

“Unfortunately, I wish I could prevent every accident, but it’s my hope that by taking action to address distracted drivers today that we will be able to make our roads safer and hopefully prevent some of these crashes that we’ve seen,” said Gov. DeSantis.

“There are people around me texting and driving constantly,” said Manatee County Sheriff Rick Wells.

For years, Sheriff Rick Wells was frustrated that he couldn’t pull people over for texting. He says this new law changes everything.

“I can enforce myself this law several times a day,” he said. “This is going to allow us to stop a vehicle and really enforce a law that we should’ve been enforcing several years ago.”

The Wanninkhofs hope this new law spares other parents from experiencing their pain. 

“We feel this is a victory for Patrick our son,” said Rick.

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