New Florida law banning texting while driving effect July 1


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The Melbourne Police Department promotes a slogan: “Don’t Text and Drive.”

Courtesy of Melbourne Police Department

As the use of smartphones has become more ubiquitous throughout today’s society, attitudes toward texting and driving have become more critical.

According to a 2016 statistical data analysis produced by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the driver use of electronic devices by 2015 was actually on a decline. There was a notable spike in 2007 and 2008. That decline, however, was not reflected in a different area.

In a statistical data chart documenting “Drivers Visibly Manipulating Handheld Devices,’’ the youngest bracket of drivers, 16 to 24 years old (in 2015), was actually on a significant increase from 2013 to the end of the research in 2015.

If this trend has continued to the current year of 2019 (which in all likelihood it has since  smartphones and handheld devices have become more available to the average consumer), more drivers than ever on today’s roads might be texting and driving.

This might be a frightening conclusion, but the percentages are in fact very low. In 2015, the highest recorded statistic of drivers texting and driving was only 4.9 percent, a 0.1 percent increase from the previous year. If that trend were to continue increasing until 2019, the percent of current distracted drivers might only be 5.3 percent of the drivers on the road today.

Prompted by those statistics, Florida lawmakers have decided on a zero-tolerance policy regarding texting and driving. On May 17, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill that assures texting and driving to be a primary offense in Florida. This new law goes into effect July 1, with a warning phase beginning Oct. 1. Tickets will be issued starting Jan. 1.

Under this new law, drivers can be pulled over primarily for texting and driving, rather than distracted driving being a secondary offense to the primary reason a citizen is pulled over.

“Under the current law, it is difficult for officers to develop probable cause to satisfy the threshold of issuing a citation for texting and driving,” said Sgt. Daniel Desormier of the Melbourne Police Department. “We are still working on our procedures for (enforcing the new law). There are many specifics in the new law to be taken into consideration for enforcement. We will also monitor court decisions and action from the State’s Attorney office as the new law is implemented statewide.”

Desormier added that communities will be made aware of the new law and the risks involved with texting and driving.

“Texting and driving — distracted driving of any kind — is dangerous,” Desormier said. “The Melbourne Police Department works year round to educate drivers about the dangers of texting and driving as well as on many other driver-safety campaigns. (Some of those include) wearing seatbelts, obeying the speed limit, slowing down around schools, and watching for pedestrians and bicyclists.”

For more about the new law on texting and driving, read the bill in full at flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2019/00107.