Distracted driving law goes into full swing January 1st

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - Starting January first you're more likely to be ticketed for texting while driving or using you phone in a school or work zone.

Florida lawmakers are getting serious about texting and driving tickets come January 1. (Pixaby)

The state's new texting while driving law technically went into effect in July 1st, but law enforcement has used the first six months to focus on education.

“We don't want anyone to take their eyes off the road. We want everyone to be just focused on driving. That's the number one thing. Just put it down,” said Lieutenant Derrick Rahming with the Florida Highway Patrol.

FHP alone has issued 897 warnings, but as of January first, enforcement becomes the priority.

"Enforcing the law with citations. There will be an approach where we want to make sure that everyone has had their time in the six months,” said Rahming.

In extreme cases law enforcement hasn't hesitated to write a ticket.

Statewide, police have issued 1,151 tickets for texting behind the wheel.

Since October first, 30 tickets have been issued for violations to the hands-free portion of the law, which applies only in active school and work zones.

But expect more tickets after January first.

“We don't want anyone to get hit anywhere in the state of Florida, but those areas specifically we just want to make sure that if you have a device in your hand you're going to get stopped, you're going to get a citation,” said Rahming.

A ticket for texting while driving will cost you $30.

If you’re caught violating the hands-free law, you will be ticketed $60 and have three points added to your license.

Safe driving advocates like Demetrius Branca haven't giving up hope for stronger laws to be passed in the future.

Branca does believe the new law does have the potential to make some impact.

“There are of course benefits to this law. It's an education period for people, and that's what we need. We need education, we need legislation and we need enforcement and this is kind of a little bit of all three,” said Branca.

The ultimate goal of safe driving advocates is to see Florida go totally hands-free, which is already the law in 21 other states.

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