Gov. Rick Scott is signing the texting while driving bill (SB 52) at 1 p.m. Tuesday at the Alonzo and Tracy Mourning High School in Miami, but the state law doesn't take effect until Oct. 1.
The bill prohibits drivers from manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device, which includes text messaging, emailing and instant messaging through smart phones. Texting would be allowed in hands-off, high-tech cars and when a car is stopped at a red light or in a traffic jam.
Florida has been one of the last five states in the country without any type of texting ban.
In announcing the bill signing, Scott said "As a father and a grandfather, texting while driving is something that concerns me when my loved ones are on the road. The 100 days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the deadliest days on the road for teenagers.
"We must do everything we can at the state level to keep our teenagers and everyone on our roads safe. I cannot think of a better time to officially sign this bill into law.
The bill makes texting while driving a secondary violation, which means a motorist would have to commit another offense, such as careless driving or speeding, in order to be pulled over. Once stopped, a driver could receive two tickets, one for the first infraction and one for texting.
The penalty would be $30 for a first-time texting offense, a nonmoving violation. A driver would pay a $60 fine and be assessed three points if caught texting while driving again within five years, with more points added if the violation is in a school zone or another serious offense.
For the bill's sponsors, the signing represents years of effort in getting even a basic ban passed.
Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice, who has been working to get the bill passed for five years, said he's "very happy" about the bill signing. "After five years, I wouldn't miss it."
Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, who has worked on the bill for four years, said "everyone's thrilled that the governor is signing the bill" and "relieved."