Keep your hands on the wheel while driving – Use of communications devices must be ‘hands-free’

TALLAHASSEE — The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), with its division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), advises all motorists that beginning Jan. 1, motorists can now be stopped and cited for not operating a motor vehicle in a hands-free manner in a designated school crossing, school zone or active work zone area. Motorists can also be stopped and cited for using wireless communications devices while driving. FLHSMV, in conjunction with the Florida Department of Transportation, Florida Sheriffs Association, Florida Police Chiefs Association and AAA – The Auto Club Group, is continuing Florida’s Put It Down: Focus on Driving campaign to ensure all motorists are aware of the state’s new regulations regarding wireless communications while driving.

“As a new year begins, I am proud to give law enforcement the ability to fully enforce the Wireless Communications While Driving law,” said Gov. Ron DeSantis. “All drivers should be completely focused on the road in order for everyone to arrive at their destinations safely.”

“I want all our drivers, children and workers to be as safe as possible on our roadways,” said State Rep. Jackie Toledo. “This law will continue to ensure that parents, teachers, children and crossing guards are always safe and those who work on our roadways are able to come home to their loved ones.”

“As the Wireless Communications While Driving Law goes into full effect, it is crucial for motorists to fully focus on driving,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “Distracted driving crashes are preventable. Put your phone down so all of our road users can Arrive Alive.”

“The Florida Highway Patrol has been educating drivers on the Wireless Communications While Driving Law, and will begin issuing citations for texting and driving starting Jan. 1, 2020,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “Distracted driving significantly slows your reaction time and places you, your passengers, and others on the road in danger. Focus your attention on driving every time you get behind the wheel to eliminate dangerous and unnecessary crashes.”

“The enforcement of the recent legislation related to mobile devices while driving is a crucial step in providing a safe transportation system in the State of Florida,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin J. Thibault. “It is essential that vehicles remain ‘distraction-free’ and that each of us commit to practicing good habits behind the wheel.”

“The Florida Police Chiefs Association encourages you to put your phone down and to keep your eyes on the road while driving,” said Chief Kenneth Albano of the Temple Terrace Police Department, president of the Florida Police Chiefs Association. “Distracted driving has been found to be directly related to some of the most catastrophic vehicle crashes on our roadways. Don’t become a statistic, keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the steering wheel and your mind focused on driving safely.”
“Texting while driving is impaired driving and it is dangerous. Traffic crashes that result from texting while driving destroy lives and families, and these crashes are avoidable by simply ‘putting it down.’ On behalf of our Florida sheriffs, I fully endorse and support the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ Put It Down: Focus on Driving campaign,” said Sheriff Bob Gualtieri, president of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

“We appreciate the stricter law in work and school zones, but all motorists need to understand that hands free is not risk free,” said Matt Nasworthy, Florida public affairs director for AAA – The Auto Club Group. “The safest way to drive, no matter where you are, is with your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mind on the task of driving.”

Drivers using a wireless communications device in a school crossing, school zone or active work zone were only issued warnings through Dec. 31. As of Jan. 1, 2020, drivers are being cited for using any wireless communication devices in a handheld manner in these designated areas.

The Wireless Communications While Driving Law became effective July 1, 2019. From July 1 through Dec. 30, 2019, there have been 1,087 warnings issued by Florida Highway Patrol for texting and driving. From July 1 through Dec. 29, 2019, there have been 1,220 citations issued statewide by all law enforcement agencies for texting and driving. FLHSMV has released educational tear sheets to law enforcement agencies statewide to help disseminate messaging about the campaign.

The statewide Put It Down: Focus on Driving campaign aims to raise awareness of and encourage compliance with the Wireless Communications While Driving Law. You can follow the campaign on social media with the hashtags #PutItDown and #FocusOnDrivingFL. The campaign media kit can be found at flhsmv.gov/focusondriving.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) provides highway safety and security through excellence in service, education and enforcement. It is leading the way to A Safer Florida through the efficient and professional execution of its core mission: the issuance of driver licenses, vehicle tags and titles and operation of the Florida Highway Patrol. To learn more about FLHSMV and the services offered, visit flhsmv.gov, follow them on Twitter @FLHSMV, find them on Facebook or follow them on Instagram.

This year, the FLHSMV celebrates its 50th anniversary and its Division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) commemorates its 80th year. Learn more at flhsmv.gov/behindthedrive.

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