TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Florida's ban on texting while driving takes effect Tuesday and police say they will be looking for drivers violating the new law.
Violations will cost you $30 plus court costs. Get caught a second time and the fine rises to $60 and puts three points on your driver's license.
Capt. Nancy Rasmussen of the Florida Highway Patrol says texting and driving has become such an ingrained behavior for some drivers, it'll be a challenge getting them to make the change.
"Because until this point, it's been free rein on texting and driving so starting tomorrow we'll be out there looking for it and hopefully we'll be able to change some behaviors with the education and awareness going on with it as well."
The texting and driving ban is a secondary traffic offense. That means police will have to see another violation before they can stop a driver.
There are exceptions to the new law. You still can text behind the wheel if you're stopped at a traffic light or stuck in traffic. You can also use a speech-to-text program on your phone.
Critics have questioned whether the law is tough enough with its low fine and secondary enforcement.
Capt. Rasmussen says it's still a valuable tool for police.
"We started that way with the seat belt law and now you see kids get into cars and it's second nature for them to put their seat belts on, so we support anything that the Legislature provides. This really is just an extra tool for us to say it is against the law, don't text and drive. So you'll be able to get that message out and people will start changing their behavior as time progresses."
There's certainly a need to change behavior judging by data from the U.S. Department of Transportation.
The department reports that at any given moment across the country, more than 600,000 drivers are texting or talking on their cell phones.
Deaths from distracted driving are rising.
As Florida's new law texting ban takes effect Tuesday, the Florida Department of Transportation is launching a new campaign called "Put It Down" to try to convince people not to text and drive.
Consider this: when you're driving 55 miles per hour, looking at a text on your phone takes about 4.6 seconds. In that time you travel the length of a football field, blind to the road ahead.
DOT spokeswoman Karen Smith says the "Put It Down" campaign emphasizes some simple safety tips.
"Turn the phone onto silent. They can put their phone away in their pocketbook or glove compartment. They can designate a non-driver to text for them if they feel they have to text or respond. They can wait until they're at a red light."
The "Put It Down" campaign will focus on teen drivers in the next few weeks and include rallies at high schools across the state.
Florida is the 41st state to ban texting behind the wheel.
First Coast News