Texting while driving ban difficult for troopers to enforce

Local 6 rides along with FHP trooper, discusses catching drivers in act

ORLANDO, Fla. - Texting while driving became a traffic violation this past October, however Florida Highway Patrol troopers are finding it challenging to catch drivers in the act.

Local 6 rode along with Trooper Steven Montiero of FHP to see the challenge of catching drivers in violation of the law.

"When we were notified it was going to be a secondary violation, we knew 'OK we're going to have to try that much harder,'" said Montiero while behind the wheel of his patrol car.

The law is challenging to enforce for the troopers; they need to spot a primary violation, such as no seat belt, tinted windows too dark, or an obstructed license plate, in order to pull over the driver because texting while driving is a secondary violation. The troopers also have to be able to see the driver in the act of texting in a continual typing motion on their cellphones.

Since the passing of the law last fall, Florida Highway Patrol troopers in Central Florida have issued a total of 215 tickets for texting and driving.

Here's the breakdown of texting and driving tickets by county since Oct. 1:
Orange 92
Osceola 10
Seminole 53
Volusia 22
Brevard 27
Lake 11

Montiero has handed out a total of four texting while driving citations so far, mostly because of how difficult the secondary violation requirements make it.

While FHP finds this frustrating, troopers said they will continue to try and enforce the law just as they did when not wearing a seat belt was a secondary violation. It became a primary violation in 2009.

"It is frustrating but is it something that we're slowly overcoming, yes. Because it's a stepping stone for us," Montiero said.

FHP said because troopers are so thorough when issuing a citation, observing that the phone was visible and the driver was typing, very few tickets are contested.

--Molly Reed contributed to this story.

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