Q&A – Should Florida Use Texting While Driving "Stings"?

Today’s entry - Here's another way that the no-texting law might be enforceable without a warrant. I read a story from Cobb County Georgia, in which police officers were dressed as construction workers as they conducted “stings” to enforce Georgia’s “hands-free” policy.

Bottom Line: We’re now three full weeks into Florida’s new texting while driving law as a primary offense. I can’t find any record of a citation being specifically issued for texting while driving alone. Maybe record reporting is light, maybe it’s that many police departments are only issuing warnings, or perhaps it’s that the new law won’t be highly effectual. I can see howyour idea of perhaps having disguised police officers around to observe violations could work. The difference between Georgia’s policy and Florida is the “hands-free” law. 

Texting while driving isn’t specifically ticketed in Georgia and other states that have made the move to ban handheld use of mobile devices while driving. Instead, any handheld use of that device is something that can be cited and it’s enforceable because you don’t have to be concerned with obtaining a warrant to prove the offense that’s being cited. In Florida, with our new hands-free policy in school and construction zones, we’ve taken the first step. That I think is worth watching more than the texting while driving policy which I maintain is still little more than feel-good mumbo jumbo that’s not enforceable. In the example of the incognito police in Georgia issuing tickets, even if that were the case in Florida, it wouldn’t make texting while driving any more enforceable. They would still need a warrant. But if Florida made the move to full hands-free policy, we have an idea of what that might look like based on Georgia’s policy. 

In Georgia’s first full year of hands-free driving, 24,900 tickets were issued. Georgia’s population is just under half of ours. If Florida had hands-free policy statewide enforced as well, we’d be looking at approximately 51,000 citations issued annually. I do think that would have the potential to have a meaningful impact on driving behavior. I’m of the view that we should take the next step to ban hand-held use of mobile devices while driving in Florida. If it’s important enough to ban in school zones and construction zones, it’s probably important enough to ban outside of them given the proliferation of distracted driving accidents. It’s also highly enforceable by law enforcement, unlike our new texting while driving law. 

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