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Scott signs bill to enforce federal cell phone ban for interstate truckers, bus drivers

Starting July 1, Florida’s  law enforcement officers can start ticketing interstate truck or bus drivers who will face hefty fines if they talk or text on hand-held devices.

Gov. Rick Scott has signed legislation (HB 7125) that gives officers the  power to enforce federal regulations that went into effect January 2012.

The law makes using hand-held devices a primary offense, which means officers can stop drivers who are texting or talking, a stronger violation than the state’s new texting while driving law for all motorists. The broader texting bill is a secondary offense, which means a driver has to be stopped for another violation first, and then will receive two tickets -- one for the initial offense, like careless driving, and the second for texting.

The law regulating large trucks and buses impacts companies as well as the drivers. “Not only are we penalizing the drivers if they’re texting and driving, we’re penalizing the companies,” Rep. Irv Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, a co-sponsor of the House bill, said in a press statement.

The first violation could carry a fine of $500 for a driver and $2,750 for employers who fail to require their drivers to comply. Third and subsequent violations could cost drivers as much as a $2,750 fine and a 120-day commercial driver license disqualification and a fine of up to $11,000 for an employer.

The bill doesn’t restrict the use of Bluetooth or other devices that aren’t hand-held. It exempts government employees and allows truckers to use a cellphone when pulled to the side or off the highway.

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