Starting today, texting and driving is illegal in the state of Florida.
Officers will be able to ticket drivers for texting while behind the wheel, but only as a secondary offense. This means an officer can only pull over a driver if another violation, such as speeding or not wearing a seatbelt, is observed.
The penalties for texting and driving: a $30 fine for a first offense and $60 for a second.
The bill allows drivers to text while at a red light, look at Internet or GPS and talking on a cell phone without restriction. The bill also reading certain types of texts, such as those with addresses.
Although the legislation was just put into effect today, Florida officials are already looking to strengthen the bill. Senator Maria Sachs wants to make texting and driving a primary offense.
Florida is the 41st state to pass such legislation.
In 2012, texting contributed to at least 189 crashes in Florida, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. But that number could be under-reported since texting while driving wasn't illegal last year.
Every ten seconds a car accident takes place on U.S. roadways. Over the course of a year, motor vehicle accidents injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Tragically, every thirteen minutes a person loses his or her life in a fatal car accident. Many of these accidents could have been prevented and often occur due to driver errors such as: inattention, talking on the phone, texting, having too many people in the car, changing the radio, reading while driving and numerous other causes.
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Source: The Miami Herald, "State lawmaker wants tougher texting while driving law," Oct. 1, 2013.