ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – Drivers along Forest City Road learned an expensive lesson early Thursday as deputies enforced the hands-free portion of Florida's texting and driving law.
The law, which went into effect in 2019, makes it illegal to hold a cellphone or other electronic device while driving through an active school or construction zone.
For Thursday's operation, the Orange County Sheriff's Office focused on a school zone near Lake Weston Elementary.
Dozens of drivers were pulled over in the span of 90 minutes as deputies spotted each one using their phone while driving through the area.
“It’s simple, but yet people have been so used to using their phones while they’re driving,” Master Deputy Michael Johnson said. “You’re taking someone else’s life in your hands because you’re looking at a device.”
This morning, our Motors Unit conducted a "Hands-Free" law detail at a school zone and a construction zone (w/workers present). Here are the results: - 71 traffic stops— Orange County Sheriff's Office (@OrangeCoSheriff) February 20, 2020
- 50 citations for "hands-free" law
- 26 citations for other violations pic.twitter.com/cOtDoSjdSb
Drivers who were pulled over, like Lisa Andreoni, were written a $164 ticket.
"I can't play dumb and say I wasn't aware of it, but I am aware of it," she said. "You've just got to be aware and this is a big wake-up call."
For first time offenders, deputies said the fine can be waived if a hands-free device is purchased and proof of the purchase is shown to the clerk of the court.
“It’s for safety. Safety first, I get it,” Andreoni said. “Get hands free, because this is for real. If they’re doing it right here in this big school zone, there’s a ton of school zones all over the place.”
Deputies said they’re on the lookout for cellphone use every day, but plan similar operations in the coming weeks to reinforce the new law.