Governor Ron DeSantis, signed a bill that became law on July 1st, 2019, which allows law enforcement officers to pull over drivers who are texting and driving. Texting while driving is now a primary offense. Here are some key things to know about the law.
What is the Law?
While driving, you cannot do anything that involves “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communication device or while sending or reading data on such a device, for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communications”. According to the new law, this includes not only texting, but email message or anything that can be covered by that definition.
Can I use Other Apps?
Yes, you can still use Google Maps or other navigation apps. There are exceptions in the law which allow for vehicle navigation as well as data that is read by the vehicle, radio broadcast and safety related information, such as weather and safety alert.
Can I Talk On The Phone?
Yes, you can still talk on the phone, however as of October 1, 2019, it will be illegal to use a handheld device in a school zone or construction zone while workers are present. It will remain legal to us hands free technology such as Blue Tooth.
What is the Fine?
An initial offense will be $30.00 plus a point on your license that will increase to $60 and 3 points if you’re caught again within a five year period.
Is there a warning period?
There’s no defined warning period for the texting while driving law however police officers may issue voluntary warnings, that is up to their discretion. There is a warning period for the October 1st, ban on handheld devices in school zones and construction zones. This period will run from October 1, 2019 until December 31, 2019. During that timeframe, police must issue a warning, if they catch drivers talking in these zones. Police will begin issuing tickets for this violation on January 1, 2020.
Wasn’t Texting Already Illegal?
Yes, however it was classified as a secondary offense which means the police could only ticket a driver for texting while driving after pulling the driver over for a separate reason. Under the new law, it’s a primary offense, if the police officer sees you texting and driving, they have the right to pull you over.
Can they take my phone?
Absolutely not, the law specifically prohibits police who pull drivers over for texting from taking their phones. The law also prevents police from holding onto the drivers phone while waiting for a warrant. The law clearly states that consent for a police officer to search a phone must be “voluntary and unequivocal”.
What if I am at a Red Light?
Technically, you could text at a red light. The law states “a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and it’s not subject to the prohibition”. Therefore, under the law, you could text while stopped at a light, however, if you attempt to finish that text as you begin to move, it is a violation of the law.
In today’s day and age, distracted driving, i.e., on the phone, texting, emailing, etc., is responsible for far more accidents than drunk driving. Hopefully as the enforcement of this new law takes place, people will begin to put down their phones while driving thereby making the roads safer for other motorists, as well as pedestrians and cyclists.
For over 20 years, David R. Heffernan, has been an advocate for those injured due to negligence including medical malpractice, wrongful death, personal injury, automobile and trucking accidents, pharmaceutical and products liability and premises liability. He has obtained numerous seven-figure settlements and verdicts for his clients and is dedicated to helping the injured people of Miami receive compensation for their injuries.