Florida’s legislature has officially decided to make texting while driving an unlawful act. At the start of 2020, any Florida driver who is pulled over for using a mobile device behind the wheel can be issued a citation and ordered to pay fines while also suffering marks on their driving record. If you want to stay safe and out of legal trouble while driving around the state, then you need to put the cellphone down whenever you are in your car.
Details of Florida's Texting While Driving Ban
On Friday, May 17th, 2019, 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 the ban starts: The new texting law will officially take effect on July 1st, 2019, which is the first date that officers can pull people over for texting while driving. However, officers will only give motorists warnings until January 1st, 2020. At that time, they can begin issuing citations.
- Primary offense: As a new primary offense, police officers can pull people over for texting while driving. Prior to the new law, texting behind the wheel was only 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 device bans: 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 is now in effect throughout the state.
- Fines, penalties, and first offenses: Under the new law, a first texting while driving 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 to avoid fines and license penalties.
- Permitted cellphone use: Florida’s law bans text messaging while a vehicle is moving but permits the use of cellphones 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 GPS navigation, making phone calls like calling 911 to report a car accident, and reading emergency messages, such as weather alerts.
Texting While Driving Now a Primary Offense in Florida
Texting while driving has been unlawful in Florida for years, but existing law was largely ineffective in terms of enforcement. As a secondary offense, texting while driving was not enough to justify an officer’s decision to pull drivers over and cite them unless they committed another traffic violation. The result was that few motorists were ever cited for texting and driving. In the entirety of 2018, for example, law enforcement issued about 1,600 citations throughout the state despite there being millions of licensed drivers in Florida.
The new law hopes to heavily curb the rate of accidents caused by texting drivers. In Florida, the dangers of being hit by a texting motorist are real.
While signing the law, Governor DeSantis noted:
- 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, roughly 1.6 million crashes and nearly 400,000 injuries each year can be attributed to cellphone use behind the wheel.
Previously, 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 a 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 must.
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 distract themselves and place others around them at risk. When they do, we will be here to fight for the people they harm.
Comprised of experienced trial lawyers and led by Attorney Todd Miner – a former prosecutor and insurance defense lawyer – Todd Miner Law helps victims obtain financial compensation following all types of motor vehicle accidents, including those involving a distracted or texting driver. Call (407) 269-5877 or contact us online to speak with a member of our team. We serve clients in Orlando and all across Florida.
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