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 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.