Frequently Asked Questions - Florida Texting And Driving Laws
Have you ever grabbed your phone to type in and search for a new song on your music playlist while driving? Or grabbed your phone just to send a quick yes or no reply to someone while attempting to simultaneously pay attention to the road ahead of you? Or how about opening an Instagram or any other social media notification to send a quick “like” or reply?
Well not only are these seemingly quick actions extremely dangerous, with the new Florida Ban While Texting and Driving Law, they can also now cost you a fine and can affect your driving record. Which can, in turn, raise your auto insurance rates.
Hasn’t it been illegal to text and drive in Florida for several years now?
Texting while driving in Florida has been illegal since 2013. However, it was only considered a secondary offense. This means that a law enforcement officer could have only issued you a ticket, fine, or citation for driving while texting if the officer stopped you for a primary offense, such as failure to stop at a stop sign, running a red light, swerving, or speeding. Before the new texting and driving law, if an officer saw you texting while driving, the officer could not pull you over unless you were committing a primary offense. This may have led some drivers to believe that they could get away with texting while driving since citations for texting and driving were extremely uncommon. But for the safety of all drivers, passengers, and pedestrians, this has now changed.
What has changed?
Since the number of Florida automobile accidents and deaths caused by texting while driving continues to climb, Florida Law makers decided to impose stricter penalties on those caught texting while driving.
As of July 1, 2019, texting and driving in Florida was changed from a secondary offense to a primary offense. There was a warning period from this time until January 1st, 2020. As of January 1, 2020, law enforcement officers can now issue you a fine for driving while texting. This means that if an officer sees you with your phone in your hand and sees you texting or typing on any hand-held device while driving, the officer can pull you over and issue you a fine for texting while driving.
There are some exceptions to the Florida Ban While Texting and Driving Law
These are some of the exceptions:
- Calling 911 in the event of an emergency.
- Using a device for navigational purposes, such as a GPS.
- Using wireless communication that does not require you to type in letters, numbers, or symbols. You may only use the keys needed to activate the device.
- Receiving messages that are related to the operation of the vehicle, such as, traffic alerts, weather alerts, emergency alerts, and radio broadcasts.
- If you are using your phone to report criminal activity or suspicious activity to law enforcement.
- If you are a law enforcement, fire service, or emergency medical services professional who is performing official duties while operating an authorized emergency vehicle.
- If you are operating an autonomous vehicle with the automated driving system engaged, also known as a self-driving vehicle.
What happens if I am pulled over by a police officer for texting while driving?
First and foremost, it is always a good idea to know your rights. If you are pulled over by a law enforcement officer for texting while driving, the officer must inform you of your right to decline a search of your cell phone or wireless communication device. The law enforcement officer cannot search through your phone without a warrant nor can the law enforcement officer hold your phone while he or she attempts to obtain a warrant to search your phone. The law enforcement officer does not need proof that you were texting and driving. If the law enforcement officer sees you texting while driving, the law enforcement officer can issue you a fine or penalty. If the law enforcement officer issues you a fine or penalty, he or she must record your race or ethnicity.
What are the penalties for texting and driving?
According to The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, you will be issued a $30 fine on your first offense of driving while texting and there will be no points assessed on your driver’s license. If you commit a second offense within 5 years from your first offense, you will be issued a $60 fine and you will receive 3 points against your driver’s license.
Penalties are stricter for those caught texting and driving or operating a wireless communication device in a school zone or a work zone
Texting and driving or operating a hand-held wireless communication device while driving in a school zone or in a work zone will automatically cost you a $60 fine and 3 points will be assessed against your driver’s license. The three points against your driver’s license will be assessed even if this is your first offense. Since the risk of injuring or killing someone at a school or work zone is much higher, the penalty is stricter.
Can I dispute my texting while driving traffic violation?
You can only dispute your texting while driving violation if you were involved in a crash that resulted in a death or injury. If so, you can dispute the violation by providing your cellular billing records or the testimony of or written statements from appropriate authorities receiving such messages as evidence.
Texting while driving can also affect someone’s bank account in other ways
Besides putting their own lives and the life of others at complete risk, points assessed on a person’s driver’s license can seriously impact a person’s car insurance rates. When you apply for or go to renew your car insurance, the insurance company will research whether you are considered a high-risk driver or not. If they discover that you have points assessed on your driver’s license for texting and driving, you will unquestionably be deemed a high-risk driver and your auto insurance rate can increase to an unaffordable monthly premium. Additionally, if you cause an accident while texting and driving, the victim can make a civil claim against you if you do not carry adequate auto insurance coverage.
The benefits of putting your phone down obviously outweigh the repercussions of texting while driving. So put your phone down, save lives, and save money!