New law targets texting truck drivers

June 27th, 2013 - by DKRPA

Next week on July 1, a new law goes into effect in Florida that aims to prevent commercial truck and bus drivers from using hand-held cell phones while behind the wheel. The purpose of the bill is to prevent truckers from driving while distracted, which has emerged as the cause of a significant number of truck accidents.

Specifically, the new Florida law gives local law enforcement officers the authority to enforce federal rules prohibiting the hand-held use of cell phones by commercial truck and bus drivers. These rules went into effect on January 1 of this year and, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, states have three years to enact similar rules.

Significantly, the Florida law makes the hand-held use of a cell phone by a truck or bus driver a primary offense. This means that a police officer may pull over a truck solely for using a cell phone. It is not necessary for the officer to observe the driver breaking another law before he is allowed to issue a ticket for cell phone use. This means that the rules for commercial truck drivers in Florida are more strict than the rules for all other drivers.

Violations of this law carry hefty fines. A driver could face a $500 fine for a first offense and a $2,750 fine for third and subsequent offenses. Trucking companies who do not enforce the law can face significant fines for violations by the drivers, as well.

The law does not, however, restrict drivers from using hands-free devices to talk and text on their cell phones.

Source: Tampa Bay Times, “Scott signs law banning interstate truck drivers from texting or calling on hand-held devices,” Rochelle Koff, June 13, 2013