With the start of 2020 came the beginning of Florida’s new enforcement of the Texting While Driving Law. Since 2013, texting while driving has been illegal in Florida. However, police and law enforcement were unable to pull you over for texting while driving as a primary offense. Instead, it was considered a secondary offense that could only be enforced and ticketed after pulling a driver over for some other traffic violation.
That all changed last summer when Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a bill making Florida the latest in the country to allow law enforcement to issue citations to drivers who are using their cell phones while behind the wheel. The bill gave Florida drivers some time to learn about the new law and get adjusted to it before the changes went into effect. That waiting period ended on Jan. 1, 2020, becoming the start of the more robust Texting While Driving Law.
The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law is listed under FL. Statute 316.305 that reads,
“A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering… other characters into a wireless communications device…”
That means if a Florida police officer catches a driver looking down at their phone while driving, that officer can pull them over and issue a citation solely for texting while driving. Until Jan. 1, that hadn’t been possible. But after a rising number of fatal car accidents caused by distracted drivers, Florida took a stricter stance on cell phone usage behind the wheel. While drivers are permitted to talk on the phone while driving, they’re not allowed to text.
Florida law requires drivers to avoid using their cell phones at all costs while operating a vehicle. Drivers who refuse to abide by this law can be pulled over and issued a citation by law enforcement. Like many rules, however, Florida’s Texting While Driving Law has a few exceptions. When it comes to the expectations for cell phone use while driving in Florida, the key is to avoid it as much as possible. The specifics to this law are detailed below:
When drivers are stopped at a red light, they’re not actively operating their vehicles and are allowed to use their cell phones. That means if you need to send an emergency message to your family, if you wait to send it while you’re stopped at a red light, you’re not breaking any laws.
One exception to Florida’s texting while driving ban concerns reporting emergencies to authorities. The law does not prohibit drivers from using their phones to report emergencies or suspicious or criminal activities to the police.
Drivers are permitted to hold their navigational system in one hand while driving but are discouraged from doing so. Cell phone display devices are incredibly beneficial for navigational purposes. While a driver can be actively using their GPS while driving, they can’t type in a location on their GPS.
Whenever you’re tempted to look at your cell phone, always be careful to do so when it’s safe. If it’s safety-related, you’re allowed to send and receive messages responsibly while driving. If you receive a message regarding approaching thunderstorms, you won’t get ticketed for reading that message while driving.
When driving in a school or work zone, keep in mind that penalties for violating texting laws become more severe. Cell phone use is strictly prohibited in school and work zones. That includes school crossings and work zones with operating equipment on the road adjacent to the area you’re in.
The consequences for a first-time offense of texting while driving is minimal in Florida compared to other states. A first-offense ticket entails only a $30 fine. The penalty for a second offense rises to $60 – which can total around $100 once you added in court costs and fees. Currently, citations for texting while driving do not mandate points on drivers’ licenses, and the charge doesn’t stay on your permanent driving record.
Other states take a harsher standpoint against texting while driving. The first offense in Georgia will cost a driver around $150 with one point added to their driver’s license. The most recent statistics for Americans killed in car crashes each year showed 2,841 lives lost in 2018. If distracted driving continues to pose a threat to the safety of Florida’s highways and roads, higher fees and stricter consequences may be in the future.
These new traffic laws are the state’s response to the growing threat of drivers being distracted behind the wheel. While the penalties in Florida are minimal for now, this is an issue that all drivers should be aware of. It only takes three seconds of distraction for a devastating crash to occur. The National Safety Council details that distracted driving accounts for about 27% of all car crashes. Florida’s new texting ban is a part of the national effort to reduce the number of car accidents that result from distracted driving.
If you’ve been hurt in a car accident caused by a distracted driver in South Florida, then you’re owed compensation for your injuries. McCullough & Leboff, P.A. specializes in car accident personal injury law and can help you get the relief you need. With a proven track record of more than 48 years, our committed approach is what gets our clients the results and compensation they deserve. Our Davie car accident lawyers are available to discuss your claim at any time. To schedule your free consultation, call or contact us online today.