Florida ban on hand-held use of cell phones in school/construction zones effective October 1

Reporter: Nicole Gabe Writer: Jack Lowenstein
Published: Updated:
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In less than two weeks, school and construction zones become hands-free areas, making drivers responsible for fines if they are caught using a cell phone in these areas. We looked at what else can be expected once this law goes into effect.

As part of the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law that took effect in July, law enforcement officer will also enforce all use of cell phones while driving in a school zone or construction zone beginning October 1. Drivers will only have the option to go hands free when driving in these designated areas.

“I don’t think they see the kids walking past,” Bruna Sozua said. “And I think that they would like hit someone at one point.”

Sixth-graders Sozua and McKenzie Paquette, students at Diplomat Middle School in Cape Coral, say they both have experienced close calls.

“The car just went, and he was texting and driving or calling someone,” Sozua said. “And I just stood there and froze.”

“It was pretty scary because I thought he was going to hit us both,” Paquette said.

Speed limits are decreased in school and construction zones, so drivers are forced to slow down. But many say cars still zoom by those areas. To keep these areas safe, the second part of the law will make the zones officially hands free. If a driver is caught breaking the law, they face a $60 fine and three points on their driver’s license.

“I think it would be very important to take care of the problem,” said Diane Soppa, who has grandchildren in school.

Soppa agrees with new hands-free zones, and she hopes the additional fine will be a deterrent for people who would normally have their phone in their hands. But Soppa doesn’t believe it will change bad habits.

“I still see people texting and driving or on the phone while driving, not using Bluetooth even,” Soppa said. “They got the phone up to their ear, and it’s pretty dangerous. You worry about all the children.”

Between July 1 and September 11, Florida Highway Patrol said 542 drivers have been ticketed for texting and driving.

School crossing guard Howard Marks said he has seen too many close calls and several accidents.

“You have to realize you have kids crossing, so you have to pay attention,” Marks said. “And you have guys standing out there. People don’t pay attention, and people are going to get killed.”

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