Tech-up before texting and driving law takes hold

On July 1, Florida’s new texting and driving law takes effect on all roads.

According to the Florida Highway Patrol, entering text into your phone while your car is moving and you are driving it will become a primary offense; meaning law enforcement can pull you over and ticket you for it without needing any other reason to stop you. Tickets for texting start at $30 for the first offense and go up to $60 with points on your license upon a second offense.

Lt. Kim Montes said FHP will allow motorists a grace period until the first of next year when their troopers will only give warnings and try to educate drivers about the new rule. However, that grace period for texting is not written into the law and some law enforcement will ticket as of Monday.

Starting in October, an additional law will go into effect banning all device use that isn’t hands-free in school zones, construction zones, and areas with crosswalks where children are present. Montes said that portion of the law does have a grace period written in and no agencies will ticket for that until January 1, 2020.

However, the new laws eyeing safer roads, many safety experts recommend just going hands-free all together.

Luckily, that may be easier than ever.

Car-tech to keep connected and keep your attention on the road is a growing market.

"Inexpensive to expensive; you can kind of get a full array,” said Matthew Adkins, Geek Squad Manager at Best Buy in Altamonte Springs. "Your transmitters, your Bluetooth hands-free."

Walking the car audio aisles in his store Friday, Adkins pointed out options from as low as $20 to about $1000.

Cheap options like phone mounts can get your phone attached to your dash and out of your hands; still allow for speaker phone use or a quick glance at your GPS. Transmitters to run your phone audio into your radio or to bring Bluetooth tech into an older car can go for under $100.

Adkins pointed out a number of screened radio units that utilize newer tech like Apple Car Play of Android Auto to put some of your phone functions right into your dash; even glimpses at messages or alerts for easy, voice only replies. Some of those units were on display for the $300 range with free installation.

"Everything's becoming a little bit easier,” he said. “You even see some options where Alexa's built into some of these units."

Obviously the idea behind all of it, the new laws and the hands-free push, is to keep drivers eyes on the road and off the distractions of their smart device.

According to the US Department of Motor Vehicles, 26% of all crashes in 2014 involved phone use. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report at least 1000 people are injured and 9 are killed every day by distracted drivers.