Tickets, warnings slow to start on texting and driving law

It's only been in effect for going on four weeks, but some of the early numbers on Florida's new texting and driving law show a bit of a slow start.

FOX 35 requested citation and warning numbers from several Central Florida law enforcement agencies this week.

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So far, the Orange County Sheriff's office responded saying they've issued 5 tickets and 3 courtesy notices (warnings) for texting and driving since the law went into effect July 1st.

A representative for the Florida Highway Patrol said their state-wide office was still compiling the latest numbers, but in the first week of enforcement their troopers issued 36 warnings; that's across the entire state. FHP is only issuing warnings on the law until 2020.

Lt. Kim Montes said troopers are looking for clear, obvious text entry by drivers as they try to enforce the new law. Under that law, drivers must be entering text into their phone in order to be in violation; other use of the phone is still allowed.

The new law made texting and driving a primary offense meaning cops can pull over drivers just for that. Before, it was only a secondary offense requiring some other violation in order to pull the driver over.

Experts weren't surprised by the low preliminary numbers Thursday; expecting the law to take some time to really take hold.

Glenn Victor from the Florida Safety Council expects citations will pick up once all agencies start ticketing at the beginning of next year. However he sees the law making change on the roads already.

"Is it the be all to end all, no, not necessarily, but is it making a difference already, we think it is," said Victor. "People are aware that this is a law now and they think about it."

Victor said he expects to really see change on Florida roads, and roads everywhere as new drivers come into the picture. He said students in his agency's classes are being taught from day one about the dangers of distracted driving, and are learning from day one to not even pick up that phone while operating the vehicle.

Other drivers we spoke to Thursday were more skeptical of the new law still, saying they'd seen little change on local roads so far, however most were aware of the new texting rules.