Texting while driving in Florida will become a primary traffic offense punishable by fines and points on your license under a bill signed by Governor Ron DeSantis.
DeSantis signed the bill Friday, May 17, 2019 in Sarasota.
Under current law, officers can only cite drivers for texting if they are pulled over for another violation. The new law allows officers to stop motorists simply for texting alone.
A first offense will be punishable by a $30 fine, with a second costing $60 and three points on your license. Court costs and fees also would apply. Hands free (no hand-held devices) will be enforced in school zones and work zones with points being given on the first offense.
The law takes effect July 1, but only warnings will be given until January, when officers can begin writing citations.
The texting ban does not apply to a driver using a navigation device or system or to a driver whose vehicle is stationary.
On Friday, May 17, 2019, (four days after what would have been their son Patrick’s 29th birthday) Debbie and Rik Wanninkhof watched as Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 107 into law - Texting While Driving as a Primary Offense with Hands Free in School Zones and Work Zones.
The Wanninkhof’s wanted more. They wanted a stronger law – a Hands Free Florida. But the legislative powers to be would only go as far as the primary offense. Still the Wanninkhof’s are grateful that there is now a law in place that will deter cell phone and electronic device users in motorized vehicles. It will allow law enforcement officers to stop anyone they see texting and cite them with a ticket and points on their license.
Debbie and Rik’s son Patrick died because of the negligence of a cell phone distracted driver. Patrick lived for adventure, bicycles and social justice. He was killed on a charity cross-country cycling trip while building affordable housing with “Bike and Build” in the summer of 2015.
Patrick’s death set the Wanninkhof’s on a mission – a road safety mission to prevent other deaths. Suzette, Patrick’s sister, rode her bicycle 8000 miles from Deadhorse, Alaska, to Key West, Florida and told everyone she met to never drive distracted.
Debbie speaks to high schools, colleges and community groups about the dangers of cell phone distracted driving. She and husband Rik have been going to the state capitol to convince lawmakers to get on board – to protect pedestrians, cyclists and motorists on our roads by enacting tougher laws.
“It has been an intense two years of testifying before Senate and House committees, speaking at press conferences, writing emails and letters, making phone calls, attending meetings and traveling the almost 1000 mile round trip to Tallahassee over a dozen times,” said Debbie.
“We did it for our son. Actually, we feel that he did it through us,” said Rik. “It was our way to honor him and to save others from the senseless tragedy that our family is going through.”
The Wanninkhof’s will continue their fight until cell phone and mobile device distracted driving becomes culturally unacceptable just like drunk driving.
“This epidemic problem must be approached from all angles: technology, education, legislation and law enforcement,” Debbie said. “But most importantly, drivers must take the immense responsibility of driving a car very seriously. Although there are many driving distractions, like applying make-up and eating, electronic device distraction is the most prevalent and dangerous.”
“We can prevent crashes, injuries and deaths by doing the right thing,” Rik said. “We can do this by keeping our eyes on the road, our hands on the wheel, and our minds on safety.”
We grieve for our Sons and Daughters and Brothers and Sisters
We miss them every day
We honor their lives
What are parents to do when they have experienced the devastating loss of a child? What is a sibling to do when her brother and best friend has died? What can we possibly do when our lives are shattered by a tragedy and we hardly know how to go on?
The Village of Key Biscayne has seen much tragedy in recent years. Our hearts have been broken by the senseless loss of young men and women in our community.
We mourn the losses of our beautiful young people like Patrick and Kyle and Tina and Kelsie and Guillermo and Gian and many others. We grieve for them. We long for them. We want to keep their memory alive. So we choose to honor them in any way that we can.
Dear Grieving Families of Key Biscayne:
Please know that we will always cherish the lives of your loved ones. Please know that your efforts to honor them are noticed. Please know that your undertakings of outreach are highly regarded. We send blessings and wishes for peace to those of you who fight to save other lives, start foundations, give scholarships and donations, and reach out in kindness, caring and generosity to others. We know that your grief journey is a difficult one and we commend you for your courage, resolve and every gesture of love to honor your beloved.
The Wanninkof family