Photo: Chris Zuppa\Tampa Bay Times
Tougher texting while driving law in Florida approved by Gov. DeSantis
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill Friday that toughens Florida’s prohibition on texting while driving, hoping to crack down on one of the most dangerous forms of distracted driving.
Starting July 1, police will be allowed to stop and ticket drivers for texting while they’re behind the wheel of a moving car, with limited exceptions. Drivers will still be able to use their phone while their car is stopped.
Speaking at a Sarasota high school Friday, DeSantis called texting “one of the worst of all driving distractions,” and said it’s caused thousands of accidents and hundreds of deaths in the state.
“You can see people really lose control on the road,” DeSantis said. “I’ve seen it myself.”
Texting while driving has been illegal in Florida for years, but police can’t stop you for it. Because of that, it’s barely been enforced — not even 1,700 tickets were issued for it in the state last year.
Lawmakers and the governor said they hope the new law will change the culture of driving in Florida, a state notorious both in statistics and in stories for the dangerous habits of its drivers.
A sponsor of the legislation, Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said he hoped putting down the phone will be as common as putting on a seat belt — even if drivers might bristle at the additional regulation.
“Back then we thought, ‘Why are we having to wear seat belts? Why is the government intruding in our lives?’” said Simpson. “And as we know today, no one would get in the vehicle without putting their children and themselves in a seat belt. It’s second nature.”
Making it easier to stop drivers for texting was the top priority of the Florida Police Chiefs Association this legislative session, Bradenton police Chief Melanie Evans said.
But some police feel the new law doesn’t go nearly far enough.