WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. — City leaders in West Palm Beach discussed Florida's new ban on texting and driving on Friday morning.
Mayor Keith James and Police Chief Frank Adderley held a news conference to educate drivers about the new law, which makes texting and driving a primary offense. That means a law enforcement officer who sees you doing it can pull you over and write you a ticket.
While the law went into effect on July 1, tickets won't be given out until Jan. 1, 2020.
During this so-called "warning period," West Palm Beach police officers who pull drivers over for texting will give them bookmarks with information about the new law.
In order to prove you were texting behind the wheel, an officer must look at your phone. But before doing that, the officer needs your permission to search your phone, which you can refuse to give.
The law states:
"A law enforcement officer who stops a motor vehicle for a violation of paragraph (a) must inform the motor vehicle operator of his or her right to decline a search of his or her wireless communications device and may not access the wireless communications device without a warrant."
There are exceptions to the law. You can use your phone to text:
- For GPS
- To communicate an emergency situation
- To receive emergency, traffic, or weather alerts
- When your car is stopped, like at a red light or stop sign
Starting Oct. 1, handheld phone use will be banned in school zones and active work zones. There will also be a "warning period" for this portion of the law until Jan. 1, 2020.