The era of answering texts, emails, and everything in between on your phone while driving in Florida is coming to an end. Starting on July 1, 2019, the ban on texting while driving is going into effect to change the way Floridians use their phones on the road. Until now, Florida was one of five states where police couldn’t pull over a driver specifically for texting while driving. Florida has high numbers for distracted driving crashes, which often result in deaths.
To make Florida roads more secure for drivers, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other road users, the Florida ban on texting while driving is finally coming into full effect.
Florida’s Ban on Texting While Driving 2019 Updates
Statute 316.305 originally came into effect back in 2018, allowing authorities to cite texting while driving as a secondary offense. This meant that only after another primary offense, such as speeding, could an officer add a violation for distracted driving if he or she could prove this was the case.
With the latest update to the law, authorities are now allowed to consider texting while driving a primary offense, which means they can pull over anyone who they see committing such an act.
Ban on Texting While Driving Law Explained
Florida’s newest law is officially known as the wireless communications devices prohibition, as outlined in the Florida Statute 316.305. The law aims to improve roadway safety for everyone, prevent crashes related to distracted driving, and reduce injuries, deaths, property damage, and even automobile insurance rates due to motor vehicle crashes.
According to the law, a person may not operate a vehicle while manually typing or entering letters, numbers, or symbols into a wireless communication device. Forms of non-voice interpersonal communication include, but is not limited to, texting, emailing, and instant messaging.
From July 1, the law will instantly allow authorities to stop anyone that’s texting while driving, as the act has been given a primary offense. However, the law also changes the way people are allowed to talk on the phone while driving. From October 1 until December 31, authorities must issue a warning when a driver is talking on the phone in a school zone or construction zone. After this warning period, authorities will have the power to issue tickets starting January 1, 2020.
Under the new law, a texting while driving violation would result in different offenses:
First Offense: will result in a base fine of $30, not including additional court costs or other fees associated with the violation. At this point, no points will be assessed against your license.
Second Offense: must happen within five years from the first violation, will result in a base fine of $60, not including other costs associated with the citation. Here, three points will be assessed against your license.
Other Offenses: If a driver is found not using a free-hands device in school zones or work zones, the moving violation will be a base fine of $60, not including other costs and fees. This will also result in three points assessed against your driver’s license.
Commonly Asked Questions about the New Law
With the law being so new, many drivers have questions about exactly what’s covered under the statute. Here are some of the most common questions asked about the latest update.
Can people text while stopped at a red light?
Not necessarily. According to the law, a stationary motor vehicle is not in operation, which means it’s not subject to the prohibition. So, theoretically, you could text while at a stoplight. However, once your vehicle starts moving, you’ll be breaking the law.
What about using navigation apps?
The law does include exceptions for vehicle navigation. It also excludes data read by the vehicle, radio broadcasts, and safety-related information such as emergency or weather alerts.
Can you still talk on the phone?
For the most part – yes. The law still allows drivers to talk on handheld devices. However, starting October 1, it will be considered illegal to use a handheld device in school and construction zones while workers are present. Under these conditions, drivers must use hands-free technology to prevent getting pulled over.
Can police take your phone to prove you’ve been texting?
No. The law prohibits police officers who pull drivers over for texting from taking their phones without a warrant. It also bans police from coercing drivers into handing over their phones. Police officers are also required to inform drivers they can decline a search. The law states explicitly that consent for a police officer to search a phone must be voluntary and unequivocal. Otherwise, the officer can request a warrant to check your phone later on.
Can I Fight These Fines?
If you’re pulled over for texting while driving, it’s important to know there are some exceptions to the law that include motor vehicle operators who are:
• Reporting an emergency and criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement
• Operating an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode
• Receiving messages related to navigation of the car, safety-related information, or data used primarily by the motor vehicle
If you or someone you know has been pulled over for texting while driving, now there are ways to work around these citations. Speak to a lawyer that understands the ins and outs of Florida laws to help you navigate these fines that can harm your life in the future.