Phase 2 of cellphone law now in effect

A Florida law went into effect in July that restricts the use of wireless devices while driving. The second phase banning talking on hand-held phones in school and construction zones rolled out Tuesday. “I think it’s a great thing,” said Sumter County Sheriff’s Office Villages District Lt. Robert Siemer. “I absolutely think this could potentially reduce the number of crashes and potentially save lives.” In 2017, distracted driving caused 3,166 traffic fatalities, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

WHAT’S NEW?

Florida’s recent law governing the use of wireless communications while driving rolled out its second phase Tuesday. During the first phase, texting while driving was banned, and law enforcement began to issue warnings. Now, a ban on the hand-held use of cellphones in school and construction zones also will be enforced. For now, law enforcement will only issue warnings but, starting Jan. 1, citations will be issued.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Warnings will be issued for texting while driving and talking on the phone without using a hands-free device in school and construction zones until Jan. 1. After Jan. 1, drivers can receive a fine for violations. The fine is $30 for the first offense, but with court costs that offense could end up costing $108. For the second and all subsequent offenses, the fine is $60, $156 with court costs, and three points on a driver’s license.

WARNINGS VS. CITATIONS

A warning does not involve a fine or points against a driver’s license, while a citation involves a fine and sometimes points. The decision to issue a warning versus a citation is left up to the officer’s discretion, but they may be more inclined to issue a citation when public safety is impacted, for instance in a school or construction zone where pedestrians are likely to be present, Siemer said.

SCHOOL ZONES

In The Villages, there is a school zone on County Road 466 between U.S. Highway 301 and County Road 101. The school zones in Wildwood are along Huey Street and Cleveland Avenue. There is a school zone along Rolling Acres Road, beginning just south of U.S. Highway 27/441 and extending to Duck Lake Road in Lady Lake. Dixie Avenue, Berckman Street and County Road 466A near Fruitland Park Elementary also are school zones.