Tampa police hope distracted driving law will act as deterrent

As of today, July 1, texting and driving is now a primary offense in Florida. That means you could get pulled over and cited if an officer suspects you’re looking down at your phone instead of up at the road.

Tampa Police Chief Brian Dugan was quick to point out the dangers of sending a single, even innocuous text while behind the wheel. 

”It is like a loaded gun. If we're not careful, and we're not paying attention to what we’re doing, you’re going to end up killing someone,” the chief said.

Fines for being busted start at $30, plus court costs.

However, not everyone loves the new law; in fact, some call it unenforceable. Officers have to be certain you were texting, and they cannot go through your phone without a warrant or consent.

If you want to fight it in court, “At this point it’s your word versus the cop’s word,” Chief Dugan said. “We're not interested in searching people's phones and everything else.”

Ultimately, lawmakers hope the added threat of being pulled over could deter drivers from getting distracted.

“We had over 3,000 fatalities in Florida this year, today it’s about saving lives changing behaviors and making our roads safe,” said Florida Representative Jackie Toledo. “We need to change behavior we need to make sure people aren't weaving in and out of traffic.”

The new law also says you must go hands free in school zones and work zones. From October 1 to January 1, you’ll receive a warning. After that, you could be cited and have three points added onto your license.

Tampa police tell FOX 13 they will likely issue warnings for texting and driving for about six months to let people get adjusted to the new law. 

However, the chief says if you’re acting egregiously enough, they will issue a citation.