In the past two years, 1,845 crashes took place within school zones in Hillsborough County alone. These numbers encouraged transportation officials to try to find a solution to decrease the number of crashes occurring in school zones.
On Oct. 1, Florida law enforcement passed a new law that prohibits anyone from holding their cellular devices within school crossings, school zones, and work zones. This new law will increase safety far more effectively than the previous law, which forbade texting while driving.
The texting while driving law had many loopholes which made it difficult for police to fully enforce and has made drivers less precautious about following it. Police could pull over anyone with poor driving quality and instigate a fine of 30 dollars or write a citation to someone who was texting while driving, however, they were unable to if the driver was using their phone to call or for navigation.
Now, this new law is being passed so that it is a primary offense if anyone is caught using their phone in any fashion. Drivers can now be pulled over simply for having a phone in hand. This is more jarring to individuals and is more likely to get a reaction, due to the overall broadness and seriousness of the law. A police officer, if necessary, because the law is a primary offense, may arrest the person involved, or impose an instant fine. This is much stricter than the previous secondary offense texting law.
The fine has also increased by half the original, meaning that offenders will pay 60 dollars and additionally receive a new penalty of three points on their driving record. These risen stakes will caution drivers from using their phones within school zones.
However, many are concerned about whether police will actually enforce the law. Since the texting-while-driving-ban, police have a reputation for not enforcing the law or writing as many tickets as what was expected. Results have been as low as ticketing only 542 drivers for texting while driving within a three-month period. However, with this new regulation being a primary offense, police will also place more priority in enforcing this law than previously. Police also have more room for instigating this policy since the ban stretches to not solely texting.
Police also will not be writing tickets until next year, on Jan. 1, leaving school zone drivers the opportunity to integrate this new policy into their daily commute gradually over the remaining months of 2019.
Attentiveness while driving is key in school zones, especially in crowded bumper to bumper traffic during school commute schedules. Students deserve to have increased safety, whether as a pedestrian when walking to school, as a student driving to school, or taking the bus. These new penalties are the highest attempt thus far to lower the number of people who use their phones in school zones and will prevent student drivers as well as parents from getting into frequent crashes.
Alexandra Gerges // Staff Writer