The Fourth of July is one of America’s biggest holidays. For many, the nation’s birthday means fireworks, parades and concerts, and outdoor picnics and barbecues.

While the sights and sounds are a whole lot of fun on Independence Day weekend, it also means more Americans will hit the road to connect with family and friends to celebrate our nation’s freedom. Have a blast on the Fourth of July but don’t ruin the holiday weekend for you or someone else. Be safe!

Consider that AAA reports almost 40 million Americans will travel at least 50 miles by car to Fourth of July holiday destinations, beginning Wednesday, July 3 through Sunday, July 7. Because of the added traffic, more fatalities in motor vehicle crashes will occur during the Independence Day holiday period than on any other day of the year including New Year’s Eve. Just as alarming, one in every four of those motor vehicle accidents will result from texting and driving.

Happy fourth of JulyThe good news is Florida has a new law on the books designed to heighten roadway safety just in time for the Fourth of July. The ban on texting while driving went into effect on July 1, 2019. Robert Voss, a faculty member at Broward College’s Institute of Public Safety, said the new law is long overdue.

“Motorists are driving a weapon,” said Voss, who instructs police cadets on vehicle operations and first-aid in preparation for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement State Officer Certification exam. “When motorists are texting and driving and not paying attention to the road, that weapon becomes deadly.”

Don’t Text and Drive – Understanding the New Law

Police now have the authority to pull over those motorists who are texting while driving. Previously, police officers and troopers in Florida could only cite drivers for texting if they were pulled over for another infraction.

“Let the call or text wait,” said Voss, who spent some 30 years with the Sunrise Police Department before joining the Broward College faculty. “Keep the cell phone down and out of sight. It just takes two seconds to look at a phone to put you, your family, and another motorist and pedestrian in danger. Wait 30 seconds and pull the car over to the side of the road and then do whatever has to be done.”

Kevin Butler, a captain with the Broward County Sheriff’s Office out of Weston, said the texting ban does not apply to a driver who is using a navigation device or whose vehicle is stationary. So, it’s safe for you to put in these directions to get to your barbeque.

“It will be difficult to enforce, but there are exceptions to the rule,” said Butler, who earned an associate degree in Criminal Justice at Broward College and has spent the past 39 years in law enforcement. “Use a hands-free device. Use Bluetooth technology. If you have to text, you can do a voice text.”

Although a younger generation of millennials made up of many college students who use their cell phones to talk, text, and scroll through social media while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is considered the biggest offenders, Voss said everyone should use caution.

While the new law is already in place, officers will be issuing warning citations until January 1, 2020.

Happy Fourth of July! Remember, as you celebrate, safety first.

Although Broward College will be closed on Thursday, July, 4 for Independence Day, campus safety can be reached at 954-201-HELP (4357)​​.