Distracted driving has become an epidemic on Florida’s roads and highways. Distraction falls into several categories:
- Visual: taking one’s eyes off the road
- Manual: Taking one’s hands off the wheel
- Cognitive: Thinking about anything other than driving
In 2016, texting while driving in Florida was responsible for nearly 50,000 car crashes or five crashes per hour. These accidents resulted in 3500 serious injuries and 233 deaths. Texting while driving has been illegal in the state since 2013, but a new law goes a step further by making it a primary offense—one that carries with it fines and points. On July 1, 2019, the Wireless Communications While Driving Law went into effect. It requires Florida drivers to focus on driving and makes it illegal to text while driving. The official “warning period” expired January 1, 2020.
Change in the Cell Phone Use While Driving Law in Florida
Previously, Florida law regulating texting while driving made it a secondary offense. This meant that if a police officer saw a motorist texting while driving, he or she was legally unable to stop that driver. It was necessary to witness a driver speeding, swerving, or doing some other illegal act. Now, Section 316.305, Florida Statutes allows law enforcement to stop motor vehicles and issue citations to motorists who are texting and driving—without any other traffic violation. It says that a person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email, and instant message.
Section 316.306 prohibits using wireless communications devices in a handheld manner in school and work zones such as school crossings and zones and active work zone areas where construction personnel are present or are operating equipment on the road or immediately adjacent to the work zone area.
Florida drivers can still talk on their phones in active work or school zones, but they must use a hands-free device. And earbuds may only be used in one ear. Drivers can also use their phones for GPS at any point as long as they aren’t typing or holding the phone in their hands while driving.
Florida Penalties for Using a Cell Phone While Driving
The penalty for breaking the law the first time is a $30 fine. It’s a $60 fine and three points off one’s driving record—a moving violation—if the second violation occurs within five years. It’s also important to remember that points stay on a Florida license for three years. Said points can also cause a driver’s insurance premiums to increase. Such fines can easily be avoided at a cost of less than $60 for many hands-free devices for vehicles.
Have You Been Injured By a Distracted Driver in Florida?
If you or anyone you know has been injured in Florida vehicle accident or bicycle crash caused by someone using a cell phone while driving, you should speak with an experienced car accident lawyer as soon as possible. Contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.