Florida Finally Adopts Ban on Texting while Driving
The long battle to ban texting behind the wheel and make it a primary offense is over. Today, Florida drivers who text while driving commit a primary traffic violation. Now, only three states make it a secondary offense, making Florida one of the very last states to treat texting while driving as a dangerous activity.
When Does the Texting Ban Start?
As of July 1, 2019, Florida law enforcement officers may cite drivers they observe texting and driving. Previously, traffic cops could only cite drivers for texting and driving after stopping them for another offense, like running a stop sign or speeding. Today, officers may stop anyone they suspect is texting behind the wheel; however, drivers have no legal obligation to surrender their cell phones to officers to allow the officers to look at what they were doing with the device.
Some believe this will water down the effectiveness of the new law; yet, many realize the importance of establishing a texting while driving ban, considering it a first step in making progress toward reducing the number of traffic deaths that involve distracted driving. If you have a habit of texting while you’re driving to or from a destination, breaking the habit of checking your phone in traffic is crucial in avoiding a citation and saving lives.
Distracted Driving and Traffic Fatalities
In the U.S., distracted driving takes thousands of lives each year. Governor Ron DeSantis eagerly signed House Bill 107 as a way to curb distracted driving-related traffic deaths. “Studies have shown that texting while driving is one of the worst of all driving distractions and a recent study ranked Florida as the second-worst state for distracted driving,” he stated. He also noted that in 2016, nearly 50,000 crashes in the state were caused by distracted driving, and 233 people lost their lives.
The new traffic law also bans cell phone use in a school crossing and in school and active work zones. Motorists driving through these areas must use hands-free technology. This part of the law begins on October 1, 2019. Ultimately, the goal of this ban is to reduce the number of traffic deaths in the state.
Penalties for Texting While Driving in Florida
Drivers can face a $30 ticket for a first offense of texting while driving and a $60 ticket for a second offense. Points against your license are possible, as are court costs and fees.
In reality, a texting while driving offense is difficult to prove in court. A person may argue that he was using the phone’s GPS system rather than writing an email or text message. Additionally, drivers have the right to refuse to hand over their phones to police who lack a search warrant.
A police officer who does not have a search warrant cannot legally dig in your phone to uncover evidence that you were texting right up until he pulled you over. It’s important to consider that a police officer might use the traffic stop as a gateway to conduct an investigation for another offense, such as DUI, drug possession, or driving with a suspended license. Officers who choose to conduct these types of investigations must have probable cause for doing so; your attorney can investigate their actions to challenge the traffic stop when fighting to have your charge dropped.
Who is Exempt from the Texting Ban?
No one is exempt from the act of texting while driving; however, the ban does not apply to people using their phones’ navigation system or those who are using their cell phones while stopped or parked.
Fight Your Texting While Driving Citation in Orlando
Through December 31, most state troopers will issue warnings to drivers caught texting while driving. During this period, they expect that Florida drivers will become aware of the law. Texting while driving may be a difficult violation to prove, but it’s worth hiring a traffic attorney to protect your driving record and license. If you receive a citation, don’t pay the fine. Contact The Umansky Law Firm instead.
Our team of attorneys is made up of former prosecutors who have more than 100 years of combined experience representing clients facing traffic charges in Orlando. Our lawyers are highly engaged in the legal community, and some are members of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the Orange County Bar Association. Contact us for a free consultation at any time of day or night or complete our contact form.