News 6 rides with trooper warning drivers about new texting and driving law

Law enforcement officers aim to educate public

By Nadeen Yanes - Reporter

ORLANDO, Fla. - News 6 rode with Florida Highway Patrol Trooper Stefan Drach Monday morning, the first day the new texting while driving law went into effect in Florida. 

"It's not all about writing tickets. It's about educating them and hopefully preventing some motor vehicle crashes," Drach said as he drove down Edgewater Drive in College Park. 

The new texting while driving law went into effect on Monday. Florida’s new distracted driving law makes texting behind the wheel a primary offense, which means if a law enforcement officer sees you on your phone while operating a vehicle, they can pull you over. 

"Habits are hard to break and someone might get a text to come in and be able to see it on their watch really quick and just want to shoot back that text really quick and not even realize that the new law had gone into effect," Drach said.

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It wasn't long afterward, Drach spotted a man with his phone in his left hand, texting. 

"Were you aware that's a new law today? That you can't text while you drive?" Drach asked the driver. 

"No sir," the driver replied. 

Drach said that's the reason FHP is offering a grace period for the new law until Jan. 1, 2020. Starting Oct. 1, law enforcement can begin offering warnings for the hands-free portion of the bill, which prohibits any driver from even holding their phone in school and work zones. 

"Hands-free entirely for the safety of the workers and children," Drach said. 

However, Drach said not all law enforcement agencies are offering the same grace period when it comes to texting while driving. 

"Every agency is going to operate in different ways," Drach said. 

Also, according to the new law, a driver can volunteer to show an officer their phone and make their case if they are about to be cited, but the officer cannot ask to see the device.

However, when Drach pulled over Justine Wangoon for texting, she said she was using her GPS and knew about the new law. She had no problem speaking to us about the lesson she learned Monday.

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"It's something that awareness needs to be brought about, so if I have to be the person to do it, I don't mind. But it is a little nerve-racking, and like you said, we are so used to doing it," Wangoon said. "Just keep your phone down."

Drach said he's hopeful that drivers will obey the new law.

"I'm pretty happy that I believe in two hours, we only saw two people texting while driving, so hopefully a lot of people saw that the law came out today," Drach said. 

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