BY CAMILA FERNANDEZ
“It can wait.”
This is a vague catchphrase that has found its way onto billboards and advertisements all over America. Most commonly associated with the campaign against texting and driving, this slogan simplifies a very urgent topic: limiting cell phone use while on the road. As this issue becomes more and more prevalent on Florida roads, government agencies in the state are making a call to action in a new bill proposed over the summer.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) to toughen up on reckless drivers. In hopes of minimizing distracted driving incidents, they filed a bill whose first section made texting while driving a primary offense, which means officials can now pull over drivers for cellphone misconduct. This section of the bill went into effect on July 1. Previously considered a secondary offense, motorists could only be cited for texting if they were pulled over for other reasons.
Since this section of the bill went into effect, the Florida Highway Patrol has recorded that it has issued over 450 warnings and 605 tickets.
Drivers can get pulled over if they are holding a cellular device.
The succeeding section of the bill, which went into effect on October 1, prohibits handheld device usage in a school or work zone. This means that drivers can get pulled over if they are holding a cellular device. This law encourages wireless communication and Bluetooth usage. Also known as the “Put it Down” campaign, its goal is to boost drivers’ focus on the road.
This law is more relevant to teenage drivers in Florida, including at CCHS. As can be seen with the recent high demand for parking spots on campus, driving is a sought-after privilege among CCHS students. Cell phone usage is also significantly high among the age group, and a combination of the two can be life-threatening. According to the United States Department of Transportation, cell phones are involved in 1.6 million auto crashes every year, causing half a million injuries and taking over 6,000 lives.
The impacts of this bill will be experienced by both adult and young drivers, but adolescents should be particularly aware of the clauses in the bill, as students are the ones most commonly driving in school zones. Starting January 1, 2020, motorists can officially be issued a citation if they are holding a cellular device, which can remain on record.
With these new measures and laws being implemented on Florida roads, lawmakers hope to reduce recklessness on the streets and promote safe driving.
Photo by Anabella Garcia