GET SCHOOLED ON TEXTING AND DRIVING

If you’re driving through a school zone on your way to work or on your way to drop your child off to class, be sure to put your phone down. Deputies are warning drivers of a new law that took full effect January 1st, banning the use of handheld devices while driving in school and work zones throughout Florida.

In May, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a bill into law allowing  deputies to ticket drivers for texting while driving. The law went into effect July 1st and deputies at the Collier County Sheriff’s Office immediately began enforcing it, conducting details targeting the behavior and handing out citations.

The second part of the new bill went into effect October 1st. Florida State Statute 316.306 prohibits handling of any
communication devices while in a work or school zone. That includes texting while driving and holding the phone while talking. This part of the law only pertains to the stretches of designated construction zones and school zones while those zones are in effect. Citations for this infraction are more costly than those issued for texting while driving outside of a school or work zone.

Our deputies began warning motorists of this change beginning October 1st. Deputies began issuing full citations as of January 1, 2020. During the agency’s first detail warning motorists of the new law, deputies conducted 30 traffic stops and issued a total of 10 warnings for use of a phone in a school zone. Three deputies patrolled the Poinciana Elementary school zone as parents and buses dropped students off during the one day detail. In addition to 10 warnings regarding the new law, deputies also issued three citations for failing to use a seatbelt and one citation for a suspended driver’s license.

That was the first of many the Safety & Traffic Enforcement Bureau conducted in the weeks leading up to
January 1st. Under the original texting and driving law, which went into effect July 1, drivers can still use their phones for calls and for navigation purposes outside of a school zone. They’re also able to read emergency messages such as Amber Alerts and severe weather alerts. Before July 1, 2019, texting while driving was considered a
secondary offense, meaning you couldn’t be pulled over for that infraction alone.

Instead, if a deputy pulled you over for a primary offense such as speeding or running a stop sign, you could also be
cited for texting while driving on top of the initial infraction. Now, texting and driving has become a primary offense and motorists can be stopped for using their phones while operating a vehicle, even if they aren’t speeding or breaking other rules of the road. The one exception is that motorists will still be allowed to use their phones while their vehicle is stopped at traffic lights.

If it is a non-emergency, contact the Collier County Sheriff ’s Office non-emergency line at 239-252-9300. If it could be a crime in progress, call 911. If you have information on past occurred crimes or people who are involved in criminal activity, call the CCSO TIPS line at 239-775-8477, or to remain anonymous and be eligible for a possible reward call Crime Stoppers at 800-780-TIPS. You can also email CCSO at TIPS@colliersheriff.org

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