JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Florida’s law enforcement officers can pull over drivers suspected of texting and driving starting Monday. Florida’s new distracted driving law makes texting behind the wheel a primary offense, which means if a law enforcement officer sees you on your phone while operating a vehicle they can pull you over.
For the first six months, violators will only receive a warning. Officers will start citing drivers in January 2020. A driver will be allowed to show an officer their phone and make their case if they are about to be cited.
It'll be a $30 fine for a first offense and $60 for additional citations.
While the law requires drivers to limit the use of devices to be hands-free only while driving through school and construction zones. It also lists exceptions to when you can actually look at your phone.
TEXT AT RED LIGHTS
Though it’s not recommended, you’re technically allowed to text at a red light because your car is stopped. Now if you’re in a school or work zone, you’re not allowed to pick up your phone at all, which means to speak-to-text functions are not allowed.
TEXT WHILE IN TRAFFIC
Traffic is all too common in major cities in Florida. Even if you’re in bumper-to-bumper traffic, you’re not allowed to text. That’s because your car is ready to drive off and you should not be distracted.
TEXT AT A STOP SIGN
Technically, you can text at a stop sign, but you’re not supposed to be stopped for long. It’s not recommended, although you could probably argue your case. Just be safe, and keep the phone down.
SELECT A SONG
You’re free to adjust your road trip playlists while behind the wheel. Selecting a song is legal, but not in hands-free zones. You’re going to have to sit through a tune while driving through school or work zones.
Law enforcement agencies prefer for any navigational systems to be mounted if you need the visual representation. Under the law, Bluetooth is still allowed and also preferred. You cannot have a navigational device in your hand in a school or work zone.
USE SOCIAL MEDIA
Scrolling through your Instagram or Facebook while behind the wheel is not allowed and will be considered texting. You could whip out your phone while you’re stopped at a red light, though.
PLAY GAMES ON YOUR PHONE
As tempting as "Words With Friends" can be, you should not be trying to score points while driving. Technically, you can play games at red lights, though hands-free rules will apply. Let's be honest "Candy Crush" can wait until you've parked.
RECEIVE A TEXT
You can receive texts, but in most cases, you can’t send them. You will not be penalized for receiving a message while you’re driving or glancing at your phone when you receive one unless you’re in a hands-free zone.
ANSWER A PHONE CALL
If the phone rings, you can pick it up. Law enforcement would rather you use Bluetooth, but you can still physically answer phone calls on your phone with no penalties unless you’re in a hands-free zone.
Editor's note: Our sister station, WKMG-TV in Orlando, began advocating for this law after anchor Matt Austin was injured when a driver distracted by a phone rear-ended him in Sept. 2016. Read about Austin testifying to lawmakers, "not as a journalist, but as a father."