Florida has become the 41st state to ban texting while driving as the law has officially gone into effect October 1 after Governor Rick Scott signed the ban in May. The ban covers reading and sending text messages, emails, or instant messages on mobile phones and tablet computers.

The ban, however, excludes the use of a mobile phone’s talk-to-text feature and allows drivers to use the texting feature while their vehicles are stopped at a red light, in a traffic jam, and when reporting criminal activities to authorities.

Texting while driving in Florida can result in a fine of $30 for first-time offenders, and a fine of $60 for second or subsequent violations within a five-year period. Additionally, three points could be added to your driver’s license.

The law, which took lawmakers five years to create, makes texting and driving a secondary offense. This means that police first need to pull over a driver for other infractions in order to write a citation for improper use of a mobile phone. Lawmakers say that the ban is just the first step in reducing this dangerous driving activity.

The texting while driving ban is already facing criticism for being too weak. Sen. Maria Sachs of D-Delray Beach has plans to file a bill for the 2014 session, seeking to amend the ban in order to make it stronger. The amendment would make texting while driving in Florida a primary offense, which means that drivers could be stopped just for texting, even without committing another traffic offense.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the reported vehicle crashes in the state of Florida in 2012 were 256,443, of which 4,841 were related to texting while driving or the use of electronic communication devices while driving.

For more information, news, events, and updates regarding Florida’s texting while driving law, you may visit our “Hang Up & Drive!” Facebook page.