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Is Texting While Driving in Florida Considered Careless or Reckless?

It’s important for all drivers in Florida to understand the difference, in terms of legal liability, between what is deemed as careless vs. reckless driving. In the Sunshine State, there is a crucial legal difference when it comes to designating a driver’s actions as either careless or reckless. The difference is serious in terms of state guidelines for penalizing drivers due to their driving behavior. The 2013 Florida statute regarding texting while driving adds a new level of nuance to how these designations may be applied.

While penalties can vary dramatically based on the whether the resulting designation of the driver’s behavior is deemed as careless or reckless, making a designation between the two is highly nuanced, subjective and dependent on both present circumstances and in some cases, a driver’s past moving vehicle violations.

Careless Driving Vs. Reckless Driving

Despite this serious distinction, the statutes fail to give a succinct definition of careless driving. However, the statute does define the motor car driver’s responsibility to operate their vehicle in a cautious and conservative manner, while being alert to any and all circumstances that may impact driving conditions so as not to place at risk the life or property of another person. Careless driving is a primary traffic offense as well as a moving violation and will result in a traffic ticket and a fine.

Reckless driving is defined in the state statutes as operating one’s vehicle in a manner that knowingly dismisses all regard for the safety of other people and property. For a motorist’s driving to be deemed reckless, their method of driving or operating the vehicle would have to be reasonably expected to result in a fatal accident or critical physical injury to others. The charge of reckless driving is criminal and can result in jail time.

2014 Texting While Driving Laws

In October of 2103, Florida became the 41st state to enact texting while driving legislation. The year-old law dictates that texting while driving (using a cellphone to send or read a text message) is a secondary traffic offense. A secondary traffic offense means that law enforcement does not have the legal authority to pull a motorist over for the offense, but they can issue a citation on top of another offense.

The practical application of this new law has resulted in law enforcement issuing an increasing number of citations for “careless driving.” For example, an officer who witnesses a motorist swerving between lanes because they are improperly using a mobile device while driving would most likely result in a careless driving citation as long as no serious accident or injuries resulted from the incident.

When Texting While Driving Turns Reckless

In Florida, the state generally views a motorist’s driving as careless when the driver has violated one or more traffic statues or causes a minor accident while in violation of a single traffic law. A criminal charge of reckless driving generally requires the motorist’s driving behavior deemed to be egregious. If an accident involving physical harm or a death results from the driver’s actions, the state will be more inclined to levy a criminal charge of reckless driving against the motorist.

Depending on the circumstances and the resulting aftermath involved, driving behavior that would be defined as careless if it resulted in no dire consequences could also be deemed as reckless if it resulted in an accident, injuries or death.

Stay Safe and Don’t Text While Driving

Texting while driving just isn’t worth the risk even if our Florida texting while driving law isn’t the most stringent in the nation. Unfortunately, some drivers choose to text anyway, and contribute to devastating accidents.

If you need help recovering compensation for injuries you sustained in an accident, please contact the Fort Lauderdale law offices of Boone & Davis by calling (954) 566-9919. Your initial consultation is always free.

Boone & Davis, Attorneys at Law is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and serves clients in and around Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Dania, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach and Broward County.

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