In July 2019, Florida implemented a law that bans text messaging while driving a vehicle. Many Ocala drivers know how dangerous texting and driving in Florida is and that the Florida texting while driving law punishes them for using their phones. However, many are still unaware of the law’s specific rules and penalties.
Below is a deep-dive into what this law is, what happens after your first and second violations, and some of the law’s hidden rules.
What Is The Florida Texting While Driving Law
The Florida “texting while driving” law forbids anyone operating a vehicle from using their phones to text, email, or use any application that requires them to input buttons or characters. Florida law doesn’t even allow you to read messages you receive on those apps.
Florida technically implemented texting-and-driving laws in 2013 but revised them in 2019 to make them more strict. Rather than texting while driving being a secondary offense like it was in 2013, it’s now a primary offense, meaning Florida police will pull you over if they catch you in the act.
The rules apply to any public pathway, from busy Ocala streets to alleys, but the law technically allows you to use your phone if your car is at a complete stop. Even on a busy road, you can text or email at a red light or traffic pile-up. You can also call people while driving to report a crime or medical emergency like a car accident.
Why Texting-and-Driving Laws Exist
As of 2020, 48 states have laws prohibiting using phones while driving to crack down on potentially fatal distracted driving accidents.
The National Safety Council estimates that over 1.5 million car accidents happen yearly because of cell phones. In addition, texting and driving or using other applications behind the wheel cause nearly 25% of all car accidents nationwide, and the numbers are just as bad in Florida.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that in 2019, the year the updated texting and driving laws took effect, distracted driving accounted for more than 56,000 car accidents, 2,900 serious injuries, and 270 deaths. In addition, distracted driving trailed only driving under the influence as the biggest reason people crashed their vehicles.
What Happens When You Receive a Texting While Driving Violation
The Florida “texting while driving” law exists to curb a problematic and prevalent driving pattern, so the penalties are severe if you’re a repeat offender.
You’ll have to pay a $30 base expense the first time Ocala police charge you with texting and driving, plus court fees if applicable and additional costs depending on where you committed the violation.
First-time tickets are “non-moving” violations, so the police won’t add any points to your license.
The base fee for repeat texting and driving violations within five years of each other doubles from $30 to $60. Additionally, the offense becomes a moving violation after the first instance, meaning the police will add three points to your driver’s license. This can lead to an increase in your auto insurance premium payments.
Whether it’s your first or second violation, you’ll receive a $60 fine and six points added to your license if your distracted driving causes an accident. If your license reaches 12 points within a year, Ocala suspends it for 30 days.
How to Avoid Distracted Driving
With how ingrained mobile devices are in our daily lives, it can be challenging to spend a second without them. However, the Florida “texting while driving” law has enough flexibility that you can bring your phone with you while driving without violating the rules.
Florida laws allow you to make phone calls and even send text messages if you don’t touch your phone. Hands-free assistants like Siri for iPhones or ones built into your car let you dictate messages or place calls without touching your phone, so you can lean on those to avoid texting and driving violations.
Hide Your Phone
If you struggle to stay away from your phone when you see or hear notifications, you can hide your device in the center console or glove compartment. That way, you won’t be distracted by constant screen flashes or notification sounds and will still have your device in your car for traffic stoppages.
Bring a Travel Buddy
If you have to travel but are expecting an important call or email, you can bring a friend with you on your drive to check your phone while you’re behind the wheel. They can check messages for you and keep you from committing any violations.
What You Might Not Know About the Florida “Texting While Driving” Law
Florida’s texting and driving laws have unique rules and financial implications that are vital to know before you hit the road in Ocala.
Violations Might Affect Your Auto Insurance
Insurance companies constantly analyze their client’s driving patterns to see how much of a liability they are and will adjust their premiums accordingly. If you have a history of texting and driving violations, insurance providers will take that as a sign that you’re an unsafe driver and increase your rates.
School Zones Have Unique Rules
Florida offers school zones extra protection in texting and driving laws that forbid drivers to use their phones even at a complete stop. So, unless you’re calling for a medical emergency, the police will issue a $60 fine if they catch you on your phone near a school.
You Can Fight Texting-and-Driving Penalties
Violating the Florida “texting while driving” law is not a criminal offense, so you can take your tickets to court if you believe they’re unfair. The right legal representation can help you save money and fight against driver’s license suspensions.
Call Pam Olsen for a Free Consultation
When you schedule a free consultation with Pam Olsen, she will listen to the details of your case and help you protect your assets from unfair charges.
Call Attorney Olsen today at (352) 671-9777 to learn more.