We love to multitask. How many times do we feel more accomplished at home or in the office when we’re typing while talking on the phone or scrolling through email? Yet when we’re behind the wheel, texting and driving is a deadly combination.
Texting while driving falls under distracted driving, defined as anything that takes your eyes and mind off the road and your hands off the steering wheel. In 2020, distracted driving caused more than 48,000 traffic crashes, about 2,800 with serious bodily injuries and 308 of them fatal, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Locally, texting and driving caused fifteen crashes in Hillsborough County in 2020 in addition to three crashes each in Pinellas and Pasco counties, four in Manatee County, and two in Polk County, state statistics show.
Whether you’re dealing with rambunctious children or tinkering with your radio, any distraction while driving impairs your perception and reaction time. Even a focused driver needs almost the length of a football field to reach a complete stop after hitting the brakes at 50 mph, traffic officials say.
To increase safety on Florida’s roads, the Florida Legislature enacted the state’s Wireless Communications While Driving Law in July 2019, allowing law enforcement to stop any motor vehicle and issue a citation to a motorist driving while texting on a wireless communications device.
That encompasses more than you might realize. Let’s look further into how Florida’s texting and driving law affects you as a Florida driver and how a car accident lawyer can help if you’ve been involved in a texting-related crash or received a traffic citation related to this law.
What Does Florida’s Texting and Driving Law Prohibit?
Florida Statutes Section 316.305, also known as the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law, allows law enforcement to stop and cite motorists for texting and driving. Specifically, this means manually typing or entering multiple numbers, letters, or symbols in a text, instant message, or email on a wireless communication device while operating a motor vehicle.
A wireless communication device, the law says, is any handheld device intended or designed to transmit or receive text or character-based messages. That law also applies to devices that connect to the Internet or access or store data. While this definition certainly includes cell phones and smartphones, it also covers tablets, laptops, two-way messaging devices, and even electronic gaming devices.
A second part of the law, Florida Statutes Section 316.306, enacted in October 2019, allows law enforcement to issue warnings to motorists who text and drive in school crossings, school zones, and work zones with workers present.
As of January 1, 2020, Florida motorists can receive a citation for this noncriminal traffic infraction.
What Are the Penalties for Texting and Driving?
According to state statutes, a first offense is a nonmoving traffic violation with a fine starting at $30, plus court costs and additional fees.
A second offense within five years becomes a moving traffic violation with a fine starting at $60, plus court costs and additional fees. The motorist also receives three points against their driver’s license.
Not using a hands-free device in a school zone, a school crossing, or a work zone also is a moving violation subject to a fine of at least $60, plus additional fees, and three points assessed against your driver’s license. First-time offenders may avoid the points assessment by participating in a state-approved wireless communications device driving safety program.
If you’re issued a warning or a citation, a law enforcement officer cannot access or confiscate your wireless communications device without your consent. However, investigators can use your wireless billing records or messages as evidence if you’re involved in a crash resulting in injury or death.
Are There Exceptions to Florida’s Texting and Driving Law?
As long as your vehicle isn’t moving, you can use a wireless device while sitting behind the wheel. While that enables you to text at stoplights and toll lanes, you still might feel distracted or flustered once traffic starts moving again, so proceed with caution.
The law does allow for other exceptions, including:
- Reporting criminal activity, suspicious activity, or an emergency to 911 or law enforcement authorities.
- Viewing or using a GPS for navigation purposes.
- Receiving messages related to safety information such as traffic or weather alerts, or system messages involving the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle.
Have a Question about Texting and Driving in Florida? Oldham & Delcamp LLC Car Accident Lawyers Can Help
If you’ve been involved in a traffic crash related to texting and driving, or you have a citation for texting and driving in Florida, the car accident lawyers at Oldham & Delcamp are here to serve you. As former insurance company attorneys and state prosecutors, our experienced traffic citation lawyer and car crash lawyer have the knowledge and skills necessary to provide you with individualized attention and solutions to fit your situation. When you choose Oldham & Delcamp LLC, you get client-focused, results-driven legal service.
If you have additional questions about how Florida’s texting and driving law affects you as a motorist in Pinellas Park, St. Petersburg, and the Tampa Bay area, please call us today at 727-201-5458 or complete our online form to schedule a consultation. We serve all of Pinellas Park, St. Pete, and Tampa Bay.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only, and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information contained in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting on the basis of any information included in, or accessible through, this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.