Texting while driving is now a primary offense, but you might not see tickets until 2020

Top Stories

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WFLA) – Monday was the first day drivers in the state could be pulled over and ticketed for texting while driving alone, but the Florida Highway Patrol says its officers will focus on educating the public on the new law. 

That means there’s a good chance those caught won’t receive the $30 ticket that comes with the offense.

“Really what we want to do is express how important it is that they are putting that phone down, that they’re taking this new law to heart and that they’re changing their behavior on the road way,” said Captain Thomas Pikul with FHP.

FHP will primarily be handing out warnings until the start of 2020. But the agency isn’t completely taking its officers ability to write tickets for texting while driving off the table. 

The agency says in dangerous situations and incidents involving crashes tickets will be written.

Amy Mercer with the Florida Police Chief’s Association said many local law enforcement agencies are also going to take the first few months to educate the public on the dangers of texting and driving.

“It gives our police officers the opportunity to educate and speak with drivers on really the dangers of distracted driving, because the last thing we want them to do is learn the hard way,” said Mercer.

Demetrius Branca, a long time proponent of strengthening the state’s distracted driving laws, lost his son in an accident caused by a driver who was suspected to have been driving distracted.
Branca said he’s confused by the decision to delay full enforcement.

“The time for warning is over. We’ve known for years that this is a deadly behavior. We’ve know for years that it’s costing people lives,” said Branca.

Safe driving advocates have also questioned how enforceable the new law will really be even when tickets start being issued. 
Warrants must be obtained for police to search phones and drivers are still allowed to use their phones for GPS purposes.

Law enforcement says there are ways to distinguish texting from other phone uses, but they agree the law could be strengthened going forward.

“I think down the road we’ll all be seeking hands free legislation,” said Mercer.

Starting October 1st, school and work zones will be designated as hands free, but no tickets can be issued to violators until the start of 2020.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Top Videos

6 arrested in Tampa Bay racketeering bust

Thumbnail for the video titled "6 arrested in Tampa Bay racketeering bust"

Puppies train to be superheroes at Southeastern Guide Dogs

Thumbnail for the video titled "Puppies train to be superheroes at Southeastern Guide Dogs"

Tampa Bay man runs Gasparilla race in memory of his late wife

Thumbnail for the video titled "Tampa Bay man runs Gasparilla race in memory of his late wife"

Cyber Safety Day

Thumbnail for the video titled "Cyber Safety Day"

Coast Guard remembers deadly Blackthorn crash 40 years later

Thumbnail for the video titled "Coast Guard remembers deadly Blackthorn crash 40 years later"

Hundreds expected at Polk Co. School Board meeting

Thumbnail for the video titled "Hundreds expected at Polk Co. School Board meeting"

Tampa police need help identifying suspect in machete attack

Thumbnail for the video titled "Tampa police need help identifying suspect in machete attack"

Tuesday Midday Weather Update

Thumbnail for the video titled "Tuesday Midday Weather Update"

Murder trial underway for Florida woman killed on vacation

Thumbnail for the video titled "Murder trial underway for Florida woman killed on vacation"

12-year-old child among 5 injured in head-on collision in Pasco Co.

Thumbnail for the video titled "12-year-old child among 5 injured in head-on collision in Pasco Co."

Search underway for mother missing for over a week

Thumbnail for the video titled "Search underway for mother missing for over a week"

Rep. Bell says she "articulated wrong" when she called for a school board member to be removed

Thumbnail for the video titled "Rep. Bell says she "articulated wrong" when she called for a school board member to be removed"
More Local News

Trending Stories

get the app

News App

Weather App

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss