A link has been posted to your Facebook feed.
OK, picture this: You're driving along and suddenly you get a text message from a friend or relative. What should you do?
Well, if you want to avoid a ticket, fines and the "blue light" embarrassment, do NOT text back.
Legally, you can read the message (but don't pick up the phone in school zones or active construction zones) or, better yet, have your phone's electronic assistant read it back to you and you reply via voice. Remember, if you use a hands-free device, you must have at least one ear free of an ear bud.
And if you're pulled over, don't immediately hand your phone to the law enforcement officer.
As Florida's texting and driving law goes into full effect on New Year's Day, here are five things you should know before starting your car and having your cellphone beside you.
1. The grace period ends when the Times Square ball drops, meaning law enforcement agencies can stop you for a primary offense if they spot you texting and driving. However, police officers can only stop a driver for texting and driving when the car is in motion. Officers cannot stop someone seen texting at a stop light unless you are impeding traffic, which would be a different citation.
More: Florida texting/driving law: 10 questions (and answers) you should know
2. The hand-held ban is strictly enforced in school zones and active construction zones; in other words, do NOT even pick up the phone when it rings in those areas (tapping the button is allowed). GPS tracking is allowed but outside these zones, of course. Using the map or Waze app is not against the law.
More: Texting and driving law in Florida: Tickets, warnings and common sense
3. Penalties are $30 for the first violation and $60 for subsequent violations (within five years) plus three points on your record. Expect those fines to exceed $100 and $150, respectively, once taxes, court costs and county-regulated surcharges are added.
More: Florida texting and driving law: Why your $30 ticket becomes way more expensive
4. It is important to know you do not have to give up your phone to the officer; it is their responsibility to prove you were texting, or they can get a court-ordered subpoena.
More: Texting and driving in Florida: No more warnings, and that includes 'golf cart' drivers, too
5. And, yes, even golf cart riders, those in registered, street-legal low-speed vehicles on city streets, can face the same consequences as automobile drivers if caught texting.
More: Florida texting and driving laws: How do we compare with other states?
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