It was a long haul but Florida has finally joined the ranks of states that make texting while driving a primary offense.
Gov. Ron DeSantis was in Sarasota last week to sign the bill that enables law enforcement officers to stop drivers observed texting on their cellular phones or other electronic devices while driving.
After several years of inaction, in 2013 the Florida Legislature passed a bill, signed by then-Gov. Rick Scott, that made texting while driving a so-called secondary offense. In other words, troopers, deputies or police could not stop and cite a distracted driver solely for texting; another offense had to be observed. The new law properly simplifies the process — allowing a stop and citation to occur solely for texting.
Law enforcement officers are likely to encounter some difficulties and challenges while enforcing a ban on what we’ll call TWD. And, unfortunately, there are some reasonable fears that the law will be abused to target, say, minorities; to that end, data on the race or ethnicity of cited drivers should be maintained and closely analyzed.
Nevertheless, anyone who drives on Florida roads or examines crash records recognizes the dangers of distracted driving. It is common to see drivers barreling down highways with their heads down, eyes focused on phones and fingers tapping out messages. The numbers of distracted drivers show the need for this legislation.
It will be just as important for parents and other adults to put the phone down.
This editorial originally appeared in the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, a sister publication of the Press Gazette.