ORLANDO, Fla. – Recently released numbers show that hundreds of drivers across the Sunshine State have been ticketed or warned since Florida's new texting and driving law went into effect.
Florida Highway Patrol troopers began issuing warnings on July 1, when texting while driving officially became illegal in Florida. While most troopers have opted for warnings while drivers adjust to the new law, tickets have been issued in "extremely dangerous driving situations," according to documents provided by Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.
Representatives with Florida Highway Patrol delivered their report Wednesday to members of the Florida House of Representatives Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee.
"Most people want to follow the law, so it's a matter of changing behavior," FHP Chief Mark Brown said. "It's a tough behavior to change. We're all used to immediate response and not missing anything that's going on. We've taken baby steps and it's a step in the right direction and I think it's going to save lives."
Between July 1 and Sept. 17, troopers have issued 438 warnings while law enforcement agencies across the state have given out 542 citations.
"I think it's low, principally because it's new," Florida Representative Geraldine Thompson said. "After the educational period, you're going to see that 500 number increase."
Beginning Jan. 1, 2020, troopers will start giving out citations rather than warnings when a driver is caught holding a phone in a school or construction zone. The base cost for a ticket is $60. In most cases, that is when troopers will start giving citations for texting while driving, as well. That ticket will cost drivers $30.
News 6 was a major force behind helping to get the new law banning texting and driving enacted with an initiative called Driving Change. Anchor Matt Austin went to Tallahassee multiple times to confront lawmakers about inaction on the issue and highlight stories from people who have been negatively impacted by a distracted driver.
For more about Driving Change, click here.