Here’s why it’s difficult to enforce Florida’s texting-while-driving law

3,174 citations given statewide in 2020 for texting while driving

Florida's new texting-while-driving law has been difficult to enforce.

ORLANDO, Fla. – Data released by the state shows out of millions of drivers, only a few thousand violations were given out during the first full year the texting-while-driving law was enforced in Florida.

In 2019, the texting-and-driving law went into effect, allowing law enforcement officers to issue tickets to people caught texting while driving. Some of those officers said drivers are finding loopholes in the law.

[TRENDING: How to celebrate St. Patty’s Day at theme parks | Florida’s texting-driving law rarely enforced | Massive manta ray photobombs surfer]

“They can lie and that officer can’t do anything. You pull them over and say, ‘You were on your phone.’ They say, ‘I was checking my GPS.’ By law, they are good to go,” said News 6 Traffic Safety Expert Trooper Steven Montiero.

By law, drivers don’t have to surrender their phones without a warrant, making it difficult to prove someone was texting while driving.

The latest data shows few citations are given out. A report from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shows that out of 17.5 million licensed drivers in the state, only 3,174 tickets were given out in 2020 for texting while driving.

Breaking down the numbers, about a third of those citations come from the Florida Highway Patrol with 1,090 tickets.

Here’s what Central Florida municipalities reported to the state for 2020 texting-while-driving tickets:

  • Orange County Sheriff’s Office: 114
  • Flagler County Sheriff’s Office: 64
  • Volusia County Sheriff’s Office: 18
  • Sumter County Sheriff’s Office: 9
  • Lake County Sheriff’s Office: 6
  • Brevard County Sheriff’s Office: 4
  • Marion County Sheriff’s Office: 4
  • Orlando Police Department: 12
  • Melbourne Police Department: 12
  • Daytona Beach Police Department: 3
  • University of Central Florida Police Department: 2

While the numbers are low, Montiero said it’s a good start in making the roads safer for drivers.

“At the end of the day, driving is a privilege, not a right. We’ve got to treat it like it is a dangerous action, because ultimately, our simple mistake can result in a devastating crash,” Montiero said.

Drivers caught texting while driving can face a fine ranging from $30 for the first violation to more than $100.

As part of the law, holding a phone while driving is illegal in school zones and construction zones.

Use the form below to sign up for the 4pm Trending newsletter, sent every weekday.

About the Author:

Crystal Moyer is a morning news anchor who joined the News 6 team in 2020.