Using phone in school zone can cost drivers

texting and driving
Police can begin pulling over motorists Tuesday, but they won’t start issuing tickets until Jan. 1.

Better keep your hands off that cellphone if you are driving near a school or through a construction zone in Florida.

Starting Tuesday, it will be against the law to hold a cellphone while driving in those places.

Florida earlier this year outlawed texting while behind the wheel, but the new law didn’t ban all hand-held use of phones while driving outside of school and construction zones, including scrolling through news feeds or holding a phone to an ear.

Police can begin pulling over motorists Tuesday, but they won’t start issuing tickets until Jan. 1.

Florida is one of 48 states that currently ban all drivers from texting while driving, but the National Conference of State Legislatures says only 20 states prohibit all hand-held use of cellphones while behind the wheel.

Distracted driving claimed 3,166 lives in 2017, according to the latest statistics from the federal government. Of those, 434 were shown to be linked to cellphone use.

The law that goes into effect Tuesday is a stripped-down version of what was initially proposed — a ban on all hand-held use of phones while driving. One of the lead sponsors, State Rep. Emily Slosberg, who lost her twin sister to a traffic accident in 1996, has focused her legislative agenda on tightening Florida’s traffic safety laws.

In addition to the new rules on cellphone use, about two dozen other new laws signed by Gov. Ron DeSantis earlier this year are going into effect Tuesday.

One new law would make hazing a third-degree felony if it results in a permanent injury. Another makes it illegal to sell or offer sex dolls that resemble a child.

The anti-hazing law came in reaction to the death almost two years ago of Florida State University student Andrew Coffey after he drank an entire bottle of bourbon during an off-campus fraternity party. Coffey, who was pledging with Pi Kappa Phi, passed out on a couch and was later discovered dead the next morning. Authorities have said they were hampered by a lack of cooperation by those attending the party.

While the new law stiffens the penalty against hazing, it also provides immunity to anyone who reports the situation to authorities or calls for medical help.


Republished with permission of The Associated Press.

Associated Press


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