Over recent months, Todd Miner Law has covered Florida’s crackdown on texting while driving as it made its (at times rocky) journey through the state Legislature. Now, it’s official: Florida has a new and more robust texting ban on the books.
About Florida's New Texting Law
On Friday, May 17, 2019 at Sarasota High School, Governor Ron DeSantis signed a long-awaited bill to make texting while driving a primary offense in the state of Florida. Here are a few key points about the new law and how it came to be.
What Florida Motorists Need to Know
- When Florida’s New Texting Ban Becomes Law – The new texting law will officially take effect on July 1, 2019, but even when it does, officers will only give motorists warnings until January 1, 2020. At that time, they can begin issuing citations.
- Texting While Driving a Primary Law – The bill signed by Gov. DeSantis makes texting while driving a primary offense, thereby allowing law enforcement officers to pull motorists over and issue citations solely for texting behind the wheel. Texting while driving had previously been a secondary offense, meaning officers were only able to cite drivers after they pulled them over for another primary offense, such as a moving violation.
- Handheld Devices Banned in Construction / School Zones – In addition to prohibiting texting by all drivers as a primary offense, the new law also bans the use of handheld wireless communication devices in construction zones and school zones, except for emergencies. This provision will take effect on October 1, 2019, with officers issuing warnings until January 1, 2020.
- Fines, Penalties, and First Offenders – Under the new law, a first texting offense will be punishable by a $30 fine and court fees. A second offense carries a $60 fine, court costs and related fees, and three points on a driver’s license. A first offense involving texting in school or construction zones also carries additional license points. First offenders can purchase hands-free Bluetooth devices, show proof of purchase, and complete a driver safety education course in order to avoid fines and license penalties.
- Permitted Cell Phone Use - Florida’s law bans text messaging while a vehicle is moving, but permits the use of cell phones and other similar handheld electronic devices (except in school and construction zones) for limited purposes. Drivers are still allowed to use phones and devices for Maps / GPS navigation, making phones calls, and reading emergency messages, such as weather alerts.
Texting While Driving Now a Primary Offense in Florida: Here's Why
Texting while driving has been illegal in Florida for years, but existing law was largely ineffective in terms of enforcement. Because officers were not able to pull drivers over and cite them unless they committed another traffic violation, few motorists were actually cited under the law. In the entirety of 2018, for example, law enforcement issued just over 1,600 citations throughout the state.
The new law is a sensible and much-needed update to legislation that hasn’t been effective or enforced, and an appropriate response to a serious public safety problem. As Gov. DeSantis noted when he signed the bill:
- Florida saw roughly 50,000 car accidents caused by texting and distracted driving in 2016;
- Driver distraction accounted for at least 233 deaths in 2016 and thousands of injuries statewide;
- Nationwide, texting and cell phones cause roughly 1.6 million crashes each year, and nearly 400,000 injuries.
Until Friday, Florida was one of just a handful of states that addressed a major, deadly hazard using only a secondary law. The new law brings Florida up to par with the rest of the nation, and gives law enforcement better opportunity to crack down on texting, deter distracted driving, and improve safety on public roads.
In a state where drivers are consistently ranked among the worst in the nation, and motorists face increased risks of fatal crashes, changing Florida’s driving safety culture is a worthwhile endeavor.
What Happened Along the Way
Florida may now have a new texting law, but the journey wasn’t easy. For years, advocates, lawmakers, and public safety officials battled for ways to implement a new, more robust measure for texting while driving. For one reason or another, they largely failed.
Leading up to the passing of the new law, bipartisan support gave two measures a fighting chance at re-shaping public safety policies. Though the Senate’s version of the bill differed slightly from the House’s, which aimed to ban handheld wireless devices across the board, lawmakers took momentary pause to align them and pass a unified CS / HB 107 on April 25 and April 23, respectively. The bill was later signed by the Governor.
Todd Miner Law: Fighting for Auto Accident Victims
As a firm that represents injured car accident victims and their families, we applaud all efforts behind the passing of Florida’s new texting law, and are hopeful it will change what’s become a dangerous driving culture throughout the state. Though the new law is a meaningful deterrent, we know negligent motorists will continue to choose distractions over their obligations to safely operate their vehicles, and place others around them at risk. When they do – we’re here to fight for the victims they harm.
Comprised of experienced trial lawyers and led by Attorney Todd Miner – a former prosecutor and insurance defense lawyer – Todd Miner helps victims obtain financial compensation following all types of motor vehicle accidents. Call (407) 269-5877 or contact us onlineto speak with Todd. We serve clients in Orlando and all across Florida.
We serve clients across Orlando and the surrounding areas.