Understanding Florida Texting and Driving Law

MikeGLaw
Florida texting and driving law, Understanding Florida Texting and Driving Law

Data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) shows 344 fatalities were due to distracted driving in 2021. Even more startling is that there were almost 57,000 distracted driving car accidents!

Distracted driving is anything that takes your hands off the wheel (manual distraction), your eyes off the road (visual distraction), or your mind off driving (cognitive distraction).

Texting involves all three distractions, making it highly dangerous. But does that make texting and driving illegal in Florida?

Florida law says it sure does. Continue reading to learn what you need to know about this law.

What Are the Current Texting While Driving Laws in Florida? 

Florida Statute 316.305 outlines the Florida ban on texting while driving. The new law, established in 2019, states that drivers can be issued a citation for typing or reading data on a wireless communications device while the vehicle is in motion. This includes:

  • Letters
  • Numbers
  • Symbols
  • Other characters

Wireless communication devices include the following:

  • Cell phones
  • Handheld electronic games
  • Tablets
  • Two-way text messaging devices

The law is now a primary offense, which means law enforcement can issue you a citation if they suspect you of texting and driving. Before this new texting law, texting while driving was only a secondary offense. Police officers could only issue citations for texting and driving during traffic stops for other violations, like speeding.

Are the Laws Different for Young Drivers? 

Florida does not have different laws for young drivers regarding texting and driving. The restrictions and penalties apply to anyone, regardless of age.

Laws in School and Work Zones

Although there are some exceptions to the law (covered below), Florida drivers must know that these exceptions do not apply if they are in a designated school zone or road work construction zone.

Before using your device, you must find a parking spot out of these zones, even in a life-threatening emergency.

However, if you have a hands-free device that can make calls, such as a personal virtual assistant, you can use it in one of these zones. Examples include

  • Alexa
  • Google Assist
  • Siri

However, at no point should you use your hands to type or look away from the road while in a school or active construction zone.

Moving Vehicle vs. Stopped

Florida’s texting while driving laws don’t apply if your vehicle is stopped. If you are stopped at a red light or stuck in a traffic jam, you can use your phone freely to send text messages, use social media, or conduct other activities.

However, when your foot is on the gas pedal, you should be free of all distractions.

What Are the Penalties for Texting While Driving in Florida? 

Florida Statute 316.305 also outlines the penalties for violating the texting and driving laws. Let’s review them.

First Offense

A first-offense violation of the texting while driving law is a non-moving traffic violation. The fine is $30, plus court and related fees.

Motorists who receive a first offense will not receive any points on their driver’s licenses.

But if your first offense occurs in a school zone, you will face a moving violation with higher fees and license points.

Second Offense

Breaking the law again within five years of a first offense is a moving traffic violation. The fine is between $60 and $100, plus court and related fees.

Additionally, drivers will receive three points on their driver’s licenses. If you accumulate 12 points in one year, your driver’s license will be suspended for 30 days. Fortunately, you may have the option to attend traffic school after receiving a citation to avoid license points.

If you receive eight texting and driving violations within three years, the court can revoke your license for one year.

Insurance Premiums

Anytime law enforcement officers issue citations, including for texting and driving, you can see your insurance premium go up.

Since the first offense is a non-moving violation and doesn’t add points to your license, it’s unlikely it will affect your insurance premiums.

But, any subsequent violations could cause your premiums to surge.

Are There Exceptions to Florida’s Texting While Driving Laws? 

Yes, some exceptions exist to texting while driving and hands-free driving laws. According to Florida law, cell phone use is still permitted in these situations:

  • Checking emergency, traffic, or weather alerts, other safety-related information, or radio broadcasts
  • Reporting criminal activity or other emergency information to the police
  • Sending messages using hands-free voice-to-text technology
  • Using GPS or another navigation system

Further, those driving an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode are excused from these laws. Also, you are allowed to make phone calls while using a hands-free device. This includes using Bluetooth or wireless headphones. But if you’re using wireless headphones, you may only use one earphone.

You may also conduct wireless communication that requires you to activate, deactivate, or start the feature from the handheld device.

Additionally, those performing specific public duties are not subject to the law, such as

  • Emergency medical responders
  • Firefighters
  • Law enforcement officers

What to Do if You Get a Ticket for Texting While Driving in Florida

If law enforcement stops you for texting while driving, there are two things you should do. We detail them below.

Don’t Let Officers Search Your Phone Without a Warrant

If the arresting police officer doesn’t have a search warrant, they can only search your phone if you let them. Thus, do not give them or anyone from the police department permission.

If you cause a crash while texting and driving, the court could not use your records in a texting and driving case unless the crash caused wrongful death or other serious personal injuries.

Unfortunately, law enforcement doesn’t need to provide evidence of your violation to issue a ticket. Still, don’t try to show that you weren’t violating the law by letting them see your phone.

Contest the Ticket in Court

You can contest a non-criminal traffic violation in court. So instead of giving police officers access to your phone, you should challenge it at a court date.

Winning would mean you won’t have to pay the fines. However, losing would forbid you from taking a traffic course to remove license points.

Hire an Experienced Lawyer to Assist With Your Case 

If you’ve violated the Florida texting and driving law, a lawyer can help you contest the citation in court, especially for multiple violations.
So get help now from Mike G. Law. We provide a free consultation to review your case and offer advice.

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