Law enforcement officers can now pull over drivers for texting and driving. It is a primary offense to text, email or any form of typing from a moving vehicle on a mobile device.

"Hands free is where we should be,” Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, said when the bill cleared the Senate. “Many, many lives will be saved by the texting and driving bill; many more lives would be saved by a hands-free bill.”

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law in May but it did not take effect until July 1. Florida is the 44th state to make the act a primary offense.

The bill encountered resistance from some lawmakers who worry it would give police a pretext to stop African-American drivers.

The concerns about racial profiling led to a provision in the bill that requires law enforcement officers to report the race of anyone cited for texting while driving. That data can then be analyzed to determine if African-American drivers are being targeted.

Drivers convicted of their first offense face a non-moving traffic violation with a base fine of $30 with no points added to their license. A second conviction within five years is punishable by a moving violation with a $60 base fine and three points added to the license. Third and subsequent convictions will result in a moving violation with a base fine of $60 and three points added to the license.

There are some screen time exceptions.

Messages related to navigation or safety such as emergency traffic and weather alerts are permitted. Drivers can also use their phone to report a traffic incident, medical emergency, fire/crime or hazardous roads.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) supports the law and hopes it will convince drivers not to text and drive.

"Typing on the phone diverts drivers' attention away from the road, and endangers the lives of all motorists. AAA urges drivers to put the phone down and focus on the road. Hopefully the threat of being caught will be enough for drivers to change this dangerous habit, before something bad happens to them or anyone else," said Mark Jenkins, spokesman for AAA.

In 2018, there were more than 51,000 crashes involving a distracted driver in Florida. On average, that is 140 crashes every single day, according to AAA.

Florida law allows hands-free voice-based texting, but AAA warns this still poses a dangerous distraction for drivers. Research from the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that potentially unsafe mental distractions can persist for up to 27 seconds after using voice commands to change music, dial a phone number or send a text. In 27 seconds, drivers traveling 25 mph cross the length of three football fields.

Handheld cell phone use while operating a motor vehicle in a designated school crossing, school zone or road work zone is also prohibited. However, the handheld ban does not go into effect the same time as the texting ban. Officers will begin issuing warnings on Oct. 1, 2019, then fines beginning Jan. 1, 2020.