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Q & A: Florida’s New Distracted-Driving Law

Texting and driving became a primary offense this week (July 1) as part of a new law that also prohibits all handheld cellphone use in school zones and active construction sites.

Florida Today reports Florida is among the last states in the nation to prohibit hand-held cell phone use by drivers in school zones and construction sites. Essentially, the rest of the law only bans texting, as most other uses of a phone (dialing, seeking directions, etc.) remain legal, except in school zones or construction sites where workers are present. phonedriver-300x225

As our Fort Myers car accident lawyers reported recently on our Florida Injury Lawyer Blog, Florida continues to lag far behind most other states when it comes to laws aimed at reducing the risks of distracted driving. 

AAA reports 44 other states already have laws as strong or stronger on the books. More than half of all states ban all hand-held cell phone use by drivers. In signing the new law, Gov. Ron DeSantis said more than 50,000 traffic accidents occur each year in Florida as a result of distracted driving.

Florida Texting Ban Begins July 1

When does the law take effect: On July 1, it officially became illegal to use a hand-held cell phone to text while driving on Florida roads. However, official enforcement efforts will begin in school zones and construction sites beginning Oct. 1, with an education and warning period lasting through the end of the year.

The penalty: The penalty remains the same as under previous law. A $30 fine for a first offense and 3 points on your driver’s license. Even then, motorists will be permitted to show proof of purchase of a bluetooth device and take a driver safety course in exchange for avoiding fines and points on their driver’s license.

How is it different than previous law: The old law was a secondary offense, meaning a driver had to commit another moving violation before being stopped and ticketed for manipulating a hand-held device (texting) while driving. Under the new law, a driver can be stopped and ticketed for committing a texting violation.

Can I hold my phone? Yes, provided you are not in a school zone or active construction site Florida’s new law stops short of requiring wireless use by all drivers, although it is highly recommended.

Can I text while stopped? Yes. The law requires a driver be in motion. So texting at traffic lights and in stopped traffic would be permitted (though not recommended) under the new law.

How will enforcement work? Traditionally, enforcement has been a challenge for laws that still allow a driver to use a phone for other purposes. Even under the hew law, a law enforcement officer cannot review your phone records without your permission.

While our car accident lawyers in Cape Coral and Fort Myers welcome any and all efforts to make the roads safer, even Florida’s new distracted-driving law does not meet our minimum performance standards when it comes to safe driving. Driving is the most dangerous part of our day, yet the routine activity has made it commonplace in our lives. Mounting evidence shows even the use of wireless devices results in significant cognitive distraction that takes your mind off the task of driving.

So when it comes to cell phone use at the wheel, our best advice is to hang up and drive.

If you or a loved one is injured, call Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, at 1-800-646-1210.