Texting and driving law takes effect
By Jessica Creagan
INDIAN RIVER COUNTY -- Cellphones are an integral part of society, but they don't belong in your face while driving and now it is officially illegal to text and drive.
On Oct. 1, texting while driving became illegal in Florida as a secondary offense, and is another way to encourage drivers to practice safer driving habits, local law enforcement said.
"I think the law is a step in the right direction," said Sebastian Police Officer Steve Marcinik in an email interview.
"Many vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclist have been affected by drivers that are distracted by texting, calling or eating, amongst other things, when they should be 100 percent concentrating on their driving responsibility," he said.
Indian River County Sheriff Deryl Loar said saving lives is the goal of the texting and driving ban.
"Texting or operating a mobile device while driving has proven to be especially dangerous. Trying to read, type, scroll, or tap a screen while one should be focused on moving a very heavy piece of machinery down the road can result in a crash capable of causing severe injury or death," Sheriff Loar said in a prepared statement.
The law may be a secondary offense now, but so was the seat-belt law once, said Vero Beach Police Chief David Currey.
"The key to traffic control and citations is corrective action," Chief Currey said.
"It's a matter of getting the message out there like anything else," he said.
The law bans texting while driving, but it is still permissible for motorists to use their phones while stopped in traffic or at a red light.
Officers will have to pull over a motorist for something other than a texting offense, such as speeding or improper lane change.
The fine for a first offense is $30. A second violation in five years will be considered a moving violation and could result in a $60 fine and three points added to a motorist's license record.
For safety reasons, individuals need to change their cellphone habits while driving a car, Chief Curry said.
It doesn't matter if it's texting, playing games or browsing the Internet, having eye on the screen instead of on the road, it's a bad idea, he said.
"The texting habit has got to be set aside. If you don't want to think of yourself, then think of others, other motorists, cyclists or pedestrians," Chief Curry said.
"Make the effort before you have to live with the guilt of the consequences," Officer Marcinik said.