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Law banning texting while driving goes into effect Tuesday

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A new law that will ban texting behind the wheel goes into effect on Tuesday.

Florida drivers could face a fine if they're caught.

Gov. Rick Scott signed the bill into law earlier in 2013, making Florida the 41st state to ban texting or emailing while driving.

But the new law says a law enforcement officer cannot stop a driver for just texting, because it's a secondary offense.

A driver would have to be pulled over for something else first, such as speeding or a seat belt violation.

After five years of defeat by House Republicans, supporters of the law applaud the ban as the first critical step toward making roads safer.

Several critics of the bill complain that the law is watered down. Scott even vetoed $1 million in the state budget for a marketing campaign to explain the new law. Instead, drivers will be alerted to the change through electronic road signs.

"Texting and driving is just one quick text, and it's a wipe out,” driver Shane Corrodes said.

"It should be outlawed everywhere. It's very dangerous to do that," said driver Blanca Moran.

WFTV rode along with Florida Highway Patrol over the weekend.

Trooper Steven Montiero said they'll be aggressive in their pursuit for distracted drivers.

"With this law, this is step one. We hope to see step two making it a primary stop," Montiero said.

Because it will be a secondary offense, officials admit that it will be difficult to prove that a driver has been texting.

"It's going to be very difficult," Montiero said.

However, it won't be difficult to subpoena cellphone companies for records in cases where there's a serious crash.

"You can bet if there's a fatality, that's when you're going to see the state putting that expense of getting records and prosecuting to the fullest of their ability," Eyewitness News legal analyst Bill Sheaffer said.

The first violation of texting while driving results in a $30 fine. The second violation will result in a $60 fine and points against the driver’s license.

Although the law bans texting, Florida's 14 million drivers can still use their phones for navigation, listening to music and activating voice commands. Drivers can also use their phones at a stop light or if they witness a crime being committed.

According to state statistics, texting while driving led to nearly 200 crashes in 2012. Supporters of the law hope to drive that number down drastically.

"It is a deterrent, and it will make a difference. Over time, we'll probably see it become a primary offense," Glenn Victor of the Florida Safety Council said.