TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Gov. Ron DeSantis and the Florida Cabinet on Tuesday approved a program to allow first-time offenders of the state's tougher texting while driving law to enroll in a remedial course in order to waive their fines and driver license points.
The program could help open the door to stronger enforcement of the law, which took effect July 1.
1. What makes the new law tougher?
In 2018, state lawmakers passed a measure making texting while driving illegal. The law, however, only made texting a secondary offense, meaning motorists would have to be pulled over for a primary offense such as speeding in order to be ticketed for texting. During this year's legislative session, the law was strengthened to make texting while driving a primary offense. Additionally, school safety zones have been declared 'hands-free' areas where motorists can be ticketed for simply holding a phone while driving.
2. How many tickets have been issued under new law?
According to the latest figures from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, Florida Highway Patrol troopers have issued just 542 tickets for texting while driving since the new law took effect in July. It is assumed that many more warnings have been issued in that time.
3. Who can enroll in the new program?
The program is specifically tailored to motorists who have received tickets carrying $60 fines for not observing the 'hands-free' mandate in school zones. Completion absolves them of paying the fine and prevents points from being assessed on their licenses.
4. How could the program lead to tougher enforcement?
With the knowledge that ticketed motorists can avoid the penalties by taking the remedial course, law enforcement officers could be inclined to issue fewer warnings and write more tickets.
5. What was the vote on the program?