Because texting requires visual, manual, and cognitive distraction, it is high on the scale of dangerous distracted driving behaviors. The new Wireless Communications While Driving Law, on the Florida law books as of January 1, 2020, is designed to improve safety standards and decrease accidents by stopping drivers from texting while driving.
Specifically, drivers must not talk on the phone while driving without a hands-free device such as Blue Tooth. Texting is illegal while a vehicle is in motion. And it is now a primary enforcement law—one that doesn’t require a secondary offense (speeding or swerving, for example) for a citation to be issued.
Enforcement & Penalties for Cell Phone Use While Driving in Florida
If a police officer observes someone texting when the vehicle is in motion, the officer can stop the driver and issue a $30 fine for the first violation and $60 for subsequent violations (within five years). Three points are added to the driver’s license for the second offense. And those fines can exceed $100 and $150, respectively, when surcharges are added. Not to mention increased insurance premiums.
The hand-held ban on phones is strictly enforced in active construction zones and school zones. GPS tracking is alright outside of these zones. Court-ordered subpoenas can be acquired by law enforcement to prove illegal texting while driving. This texting law also applies to golf cart riders and people in registered, low-speed, street-legal vehicles on city streets.
The Dangers of Distracted Driving
It’s important to keep in mind that a driver must, in all driving conditions, be able to perceive a hazard, react to it, and give the vehicle time to stop. It’s been documented that even an attentive, careful driver going 50 mph will travel almost the entire length of a football field before coming to a complete stop. Throw a Facebook alert or a text message into that equation and the potential danger increases exponentially.
Florida is the Second Worst State for Distracted Driving Crashes
A recent study found that Florida is the second worst state in the US for accidents, injuries, and deaths caused by distracted driving. Awareness, discipline, and education are needed to get this critical message out to the public. The new law is not a punishment or an impingement of freedom. It’s a public health and safety regulation against an increasingly dangerous and potentially fatal habit of too many current drivers.
According to a Sun Sentinel article published in 2018, the Pew Research Center found that 95 percent of Americans owned a cell phone in 2016, and 77 percent owned a smartphone. The driving pattern for texting and driving, social media and driving, and total distracted driving is essentially that of an impaired driver—anyone under the influence. In other words, it’s comparable to drunk driving. The newspaper article quoted Broward County Sheriff Detective Don Huneke saying that people need to “understand the magnitude of an accident anywhere between 35 and 50 mph. A head-on impact at 37 mph, the aorta can be ripped from the heart.”
Are You a Victim of a Distracted Driving Accident in Florida?
If you or anyone you know has been injured in an car accident in Florida caused by someone using a cell phone while driving, contact us online or call our office directly at 727.446.0840 to schedule your free, no obligation consultation.