Florida's Texting-While-Driving Ban Starts Today, Will Probably Stop No One From Texting While Driving

If you're texting a link to this story on your iPhone while you sip coffee and weave through morning traffic on the Dolphin Expressway using your knees -- JUST STOP IT. Years of appealing to your common sense clearly hasn't helped, so perhaps you'll respond to the news that beginning today, texting while driving could cost you some cash?

Then again, probably not. For all the hooplah, Florida's new ban on texting on the road is some seriously weak medicine. Cops aren't allowed to pull drivers over for phone abuse, and if they're somehow caught anyway, the top fine is just $60.

It took Florida lawmakers five years to become the 41st state to recognize that people should not stare at tiny keyboards while hurtling down roads at 75 mph.

Yet the ban Tallahassee finally passed last session is hilariously soft. Instead of making texting while driving a primary offense, giving cops license to pull over drivers they spot wrangling with autocorrect on the freeway, they made the crime a secondary offense.

That means if police pull you over for speeding or running a stop sign and you're dumb enough to continue texting while they pull you over, they can tack on an additional charge.

Of course, that charge will net you just $30 on a first offense and $60 a pop afterward.

At least one legislator is already planning to toughen the law in Tallahassee this year. Sen. Maria Sachs, a Democrat from Delray Beach, will announce this afternoon her plans to push for stiffer penalties for texters on the road.

In the meantime, feel free to text at red lights and stop signs -- that's still permissible under Florida's new law.

Follow Miami New Times on Facebook and Twitter @MiamiNewTimes.

KEEP MIAMI NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Miami New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Miami, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Tim Elfrink is a former investigative reporter and managing editor for Miami New Times. He has won the George Polk Award and was a finalist for the Goldsmith Prize for Investigative Reporting.
Contact: Tim Elfrink