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Florida Steps Up Distracted Driving Safety Campaign

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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – We've all heard the warning before, don't text and drive but new ads and law enforcement campaigns are going further than that.  They want you to put down your cell phone all together when you're behind the wheel of your car.

AT&T created ads as part of their ongoing "It Can Wait" campaign. AAA released real life videos taken of drivers, looking at their phones and crashing.

The effort to get drivers off their cell phones while behind the wheel has traveled to South Florida too.

Florida Highway Patrol is teaming up with the Florida Department of Transportation from now until November.

Their campaign is not just about texting behind the wheel though, it also focuses on, "changing the station on the radio, putting on make-up, eating, even talking to someone next to you," said Carlos Sarmiento from FDOT.

The result of those simple but distracting tasks?

"Accidents, people getting hurt and people getting killed," said trooper Joe Sanchez from FHP.

So how much of a distraction can texting be to a driver?

Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds.

At a speed of 55 miles per hour, that's the equivalent of driving the length of an entire football field with your eyes closed.

But texting and driving is still only a secondary offense. Wearing a seat belt was also a secondary violation decades ago. In 1986 it became a primary violation in Florida. If a police officer sees you now without your seatbelt fastened, they can give you a ticket on the spot.

"They both started as secondary violations. And hopefully it will become a primary violation which means I can stop you just for that violation," said Sanchez.

When you text and drive you are 23 times more likely to be in an accident, so even though you likely won't get ticketed it's best to put the phone down.

And you have options.

"Some of our partners like AT&T and Verizon actually have apps that you can implement on your phone where you can eliminate the possibility of being distracted by sending those messages," said Sarmiento.

There's AT&T DriveMode which automatically sends pre-set replies to incoming texts to let people know you are driving.

Click here to download DriveMode on your iPhone.

Click here to download DriveMode on your Android.

Instead of completely blocking your incoming messages, Safely Go actually reads your text messages, calls or emails aloud.

There's also another way to avoid texting and driving.

"If you have someone with you on the phone, designate them as a designated texter so they can text while you drive," said Sarmiento.

Using any one of those options is vital. Last year, more than 3,000 people were killed in traffic accidents because of distracted driving.

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