Florida’s New Texting & Driving Law
The new law advances Florida’s rule against texting while driving in a couple of ways. First, it makes texting (including messaging, emailing and other forms of typing on a mobile device) a primary violation, rather than a secondary violation. That means cops can stop you solely on suspicion of texting while driving. Next, it more broadly bans any use of a handheld cell phone while operating a motor vehicle in a designated school crossing or school zone or a road work zone. Hands-free uses remain legal.
The Previous Florida law, passed in 2013, only allowed officers to cite drivers for texting if they were pulled over for some other violation. This new Texting and Driving law will allow officers to stop motorists simply for texting or using a handheld phone in prohibited zones. The law was supported by businesses, insurance industry and law enforcement organizations that make up the FL DNT TXTNDRV COALITION.
Drivers who are issued citations can have three points assessed against their driver’s license. However, first-time offenders can elect to participate in a wireless communications device driving safety program and, upon completion, have costs and points waived by a court clerk. First time offenders can also have their cases dismissed by county clerks if they show proof to the court they have purchased wireless communications equipment that enables their device to be used in a hands-free manner.
When does the law go into effect?
Texting while driving becomes a primary offense for drivers on July 1, 2019. The ban on handheld use in school and work zones can be enforced starting Oct. 1, 2019, with an education period of warnings until Jan. 1, 2020, when fines can be imposed. “During the education period drivers that are pulled over can fight the ticket by proving they purchased an item that allows them to go hands-free while driving,” said Rep. Jackie Toledo, R-Tampa, one of the co-sponsors of the bill.
What is allowed?
Texting at a stoplight or while a vehicle is stationary is not an offense. Emergency personnel are exempted, as are people reporting an emergency or criminal activity to police and those receiving messages related to the navigation or operation of their vehicle or safety-related information such as emergency traffic or weather alerts.
Answer: Drivers are allowed to hold the phone to talk while driving (although it is not recommended). The only exception is that starting Oct. 1, 2019, a driver cannot hold a wireless device in their hands if they are in a school zone or an active work zone with workers present.
Question: Can I hold the phone to talk while driving? Does this ONLY apply to a school zone or marked construction zone?
Question: Can I reach over to tap the button to answer a phone?
Answer: You are allowed to answer the phone (but in school zones or construction zones, you can just tap the phone and not physically hold the phone in your hands. Our recommendation is bluetooth or a hands-free device. Remember, if you use a hands-free device, you must have at least one ear without an ear bud in the ear.
Question: Can I text while at a stoplight or toll booth?
Answer: Police officers can only stop a driver for texting and driving when the car is in motion. Officers cannot stop someone seen texting at a stop light or toll booth. However, a driver could be cited for impeding the flow of traffic if they are required to be in motion and are distracted by their phone. Again, FHP recommends drivers wait to reach their destination before texting.
Question: Do Uber drivers or pizza delivery drivers looking for addresses get special dispensation?
Answer: The law allows any driver to utilize their phone or other devices to track GPS directions. We recommend a driver type in the address to the device before they start their trip and use the verbal feature on their phone to get directions.
Can I tap my phone on Google Maps or Waze app (again, it's not texting)?
Answer: Yes, using the Map app or other GPS like Waze app is not against the law, However, the police officer might question the phone usage and you might have to prove that you were indeed using a GPS appplication only..
How will police prove you were texting? Will they confiscate your phone if a ticket is written?
Answer: Police are not allowed to ask for or take a driver’s phone to see if they were texting on a traffic stop. Officers are trained to identify and articulate when a driver is typing into a wireless device. Remember, police has been enforcing this law since 2013. According to Montes, FHP troopers will be issuing warnings for the primary law and the hands-free law Oct. 1, 2019 until Dec. 31, 2019. The FHP also will be conducting education through driver contact, social media and other public service announcements.
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