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Pinellas County Sheriff's Office stepping up patrols on texting and driving in school zones

Texas deputy caught texting and driving by man he arrested
Posted at 5:57 AM, Jan 20, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-20 06:18:23-05

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office is stepping up patrols to crack down on people who are texting and driving through school zones.

Deputies tell ABC Action News it’s still a big problem.

“I see so many people nowadays: they’re on their GPS, they’re on their texting, they’re on their Facebook and so on. And when you’re in an active school zone you must be more attentive,” said Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Howie Miller.

Officials say drivers aren’t paying attention to children walking on the sidewalks and crossing the street.

You’re not supposed to be on your phone at all in Hands Free Zones, which includes active school zones and construction zones.

The new rule started back in October but there was a grace period. That ended on January 1, 2020.

Florida's new texting and driving law takes effect, states with similar policy see limited results

“It’s very important for the safety of the children in our schools and also safety on the roads,” said Miller.

Now it’s up to the discretion of the deputy to issue a ticket that could cost $166.

Officials tell us some drivers still don’t know they can’t be on their phones, while others just don’t care.

“I’ve made several stops, people texting and driving in an active school zone and I have a gamut of answers. One answer I got was 'she was just scratching her head with her phone.' That’s the excuse she gave," said Miller.

Since deputies are stepping up patrols, they’re now catching a lot of drivers speeding through school zones.

“If you’re not attentive to your speed and staying off your electronic devices, somebody can get hurt. And not only could it be an adult, it could be a child,” said Miller.

The fine for speeding is steep—costing about $458.

“We don’t want your child to be hurt,” said Miller.