New law allowing Florida cops to ticket texting drivers now in effect

NORTH MIAMI BEACH, FLA. (WSVN) - Florida drivers beware: authorities are now able to pull over anybody they spot texting while driving, just for that reason.

Starting Wednesday, anyone seen texting behind the wheel can be stopped and ticketed.

The new texting and driving law has been on the books since May, but authorities are now heavily enforcing it.

“What [Florida Highway Patrol] has been doing up until Dec. 31 is we have a grace period in which we mainly have been issuing warnings,” FHP Lt. Yanko Reyes said.

That grace period is over, but some drivers did not seem to have gotten the message.

7News cameras spotted one driver after another typing away on their cellphones in the middle of traffic.

“Just don’t do it. You’ll save lives,” Cristian Valle said while fueling his car at a gas station.

FHP troopers have launched an awareness campaign with a simple message: “Put it down. Focus on driving.”

Exceptions to the rule are made if the motorist is stopped at a red light or if they are using a GPS device.

Schools and construction zones are considered to be hands-free zones, which means a motorist cannot touch their cellphone in these zones at all.

“We just want to remind everybody to be safe, drive responsibly,” Reyes said.

First-time offenders will pay a $30 citation plus court costs. However, the fee increases to $60, as well as three points added to the driver’s license in school and construction zones.

“Good. Finally,” driver Jacob Brodsky said. “It’s just not safe. How many people have died everyday because of texting?”

The new law was enforced in an effort to curb distracted driving, which was responsible for 16 deaths in Miami-Dade County and six in Broward County in 2018.

Resisting the urge to text behind the wheel could save a life, troopers said.

“So we’re asking everybody to remember the new law that just took effect: Put it down. It can wait,” Reyes said.

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