LEE COUNTY, Fla.- In the first month it's been illegal to text while driving in Florida, WINK News has learned Southwest Florida law enforcement officers have only issued a total of 5 citations.
We checked with Naples Police, Collier County Sheriff's Office, Lee County Sheriff's Office, Charlotte County Sheriff's Office, Fort Myers Police and Cape Coral Police. Fort Myers Police issued one citation, Lee County issued four, and Collier County said its computer system is not updated to recognize the citation yet.
Law enforcement leaders tell us there are several reasons that is the case. Many agencies allow a grace period for the first 30 days of a new law to educate drivers.
Sgt. Dana Coston with the Cape Coral Police Department says because it is a secondary offense, "an officer must observe another traffic violation in order to initiate the traffic stop, once they have initiated the traffic stop, then and only then, can they take enforcement action on someone for texting and driving."
He says the small number of citations doesn't come as a shock, "it's not completely surprising, there are several caveats in the law that allow for some flexibility that works in the driver's favor and makes it more difficult for the officer to write a citation and enforce the statute."
Coston says there are also several exceptions to the law. He says, "an officer, when enforcing this has to be able to testify in court that they observed the offender not using their phone for GPS purposes or adjusting music but in fact for sending or receiving text messages while the vehicle is in motion. In order to have a successful case go to court, the officer is really going to have to have a solid case against the driver for committing the violation," he said.
He adds, it will probably take 1-2 years before they'll know whether the law is effective.