Last Update: 11/2/19
Distracted driving causes serious car crashes and traffic accidents where people die — it is shocking to consider how someone driving along, using their smart phone to text while they are driving (even at a relatively slow speed and in a known area or roadway), can blindly collide with someone in another car, on a bicycle, or just walking along as a pedestrian, resulting in a tragic death of an innocent crash victim.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, statistics show that distracted driving claimed 3,166 lives in 2017 alone.
Tiny distractions are more serious than most people realize.
It doesn’t seem like much to look down to check a smartphone screen for a short text, but it is a big deal. When someone sends or gets a text on their cell phone, it takes that driver’s eyes off the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, and while that doesn’t seem like much time, looking down for 4.6 seconds is the same as a blind person driving a car at 55 mph the length of a football field.
So, it’s not a big surprise that the State of Florida has joined with other states across the country to pass a law that prohibits distracted driving (texting while driving). In fact, according to a study done on behalf of the Florida safety gurus at the Florida Department of Transportation, 64% of those Floridians who answered a safety survey identified distracted driving as a real traffic safety problem here in Florida.
2019 Update To Florida’s Law on Texting While Driving
Starting October 1, 2019, the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law” makes it a primary driving offense to text while driving. Prior to October 1, 2019 Law enforcement officers could not pull someone over for texting and driving without a primary offense, such as speeding. The 2019 amendment to the law now allows law enforcement officers to pull over a driver and issue a citation just for texting and/or using their phone while driving. Meaning, distracted driving is no longer a secondary offense.
The new Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law, which can be found at Florida Statute 316.305, states as follows:
(3)(a) A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.
Punishment Under the New Florida Texting While Driving Law
As for what happens when someone in Florida is caught texting while driving, here is the new law’s punishment:
(4)(a) Any person who violates paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.
(b) Any person who commits a second or subsequent violation of paragraph (3)(a) within 5 years after the date of a prior conviction for a violation of paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.
The Florida Legislature took the time to include the following language in this statute, so everyone is clear on the intent of the Florida lawmakers who passed this law:
(2) It is the intent of the Legislature to:
(a) Improve roadway safety for all vehicle operators, vehicle passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other road users.
(b) Prevent crashes related to the act of text messaging while driving a motor vehicle.
(c) Reduce injuries, deaths, property damage, health care costs, health insurance rates, and automobile insurance rates related to motor vehicle crashes.
(d) Authorize law enforcement officers to stop motor vehicles and issue citations to persons who are texting while driving.
What Should You Do Now?
A good piece of advice if you have been harmed in a car accident where the at-fault driver was texting, is to speak with an experienced car accident lawyer before you file a claim to learn about some of the issues that can arise with these claims, including the type of evidence needed to prove a claim and the type and amount of damages you can recover. Most personal injury lawyers, like Alan Sackrin, will offer a free initial consultation (over the phone or in person) to answer your questions.
Do you have questions or comments? Then please feel free to send Alan an email or call him now at (954) 458-8655.
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