Texting While Driving

It is official, texting while driving in Florida has become illegal. In May during an event in Sarasota Governor Ron DeSantis signed bill HB 107. This new piece of legislation has made using your phone while driving in the state of Florida a primary offense. In addition, the law also designates school zones and active work zones as hands-free areas only, which means you are not allowed to pick up any device while you are operating a vehicle in those areas. However, it does not allow law enforcement to confiscate any wireless devices from your possession without obtaining a warrant. The Florida House voted to pass this bill by a vote of 108 to 7. The reason DeSantis has decided to sign this new bill was that in 2016, Florida had close to 50,000 accidents that were related to texting while driving or distracted driving. There were 233 deaths because of those accidents.

With the current Florida, law drivers can only get a citation for texting or using their phone while they are driving if they are being pulled over for another reason, but they cannot be pulled over just for using their phone. However, this will all change under the new law. Police officers now don’t need to see you weave, speed, or any other traffic violation they can simply pull you over for being on your phone. This new bill goes into effect on July 1, 2019. However, the fines associated with the hands-free part of the law for work and school zones doesn’t take effect until January 1, 2020. The amount for the penalties will remain the same, which are $30 for a first offense and a $60 fine for the second along with three points being added to your license. Officers do have the right to issue a warning at first instead of immediately giving you a fine. The texting ban doesn’t apply to any drivers who are using a navigation system or device or if your car is stationary or parked.

Before hitting the road and reaching for your phone, there are a few things that you should know.

  • You are allowed to hold your phone to talk while you’re driving, even though it is recommended. The only exception is school and work zones starting October 1
  • You can text at a stoplight or at a toll booth because police officers are only permitted to stop a driver for texting and driving when their car is in motion. Officers cannot pull someone over if they see them texting when they are stopped at a light. However, you can receive a citation for impeding and obstructing the flow of traffic because you are distracted by your phone.
  • You are able to use your phone for navigation or to Google something because the law strictly and exclusively prohibits texting and driving so you would be able to argue that you weren’t doing that when using Google or a navigation app.
  • Police are not able to confiscate your phone to prove that you were texting and driving, but it’s important to remember that they have been training to identify when someone is tying into a wireless device since they first started enforcing this law in 2013.
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