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Driving While in Florida

In 2011, at least 23% of car accidents involved cell phones in the U.S. — that equates to 1.3 million crashes. According to the Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving, as of December 2013, 153.3 billion texts were sent in the US each month. A survey created by the Florida Department of Transportation found that 64% of 1,287 respondents identified distracted/inattentive driving as the most serious traffic safety problem in Florida. On October 1, 2013, the Statute Section 316.305, known as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving” went into effect.

The Law

Under Florida Statutes section 316.305, all Florida drivers are prohibited from texting while driving. Drivers are required to use hands-free equipment while talking on their mobile devices. The exact verbiage for the law reads:

“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 non-voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging.”

In essence, this statute makes it illegal to type into a keyboard or send or receive any messages on a wireless device. Violation of this statute, however, is considered secondary offense.

What Does It Mean To Be a Secondary Offense?

A secondary offense means that you can only get in trouble for violating a secondary law if you were committing some other type of violation. For example, an officer can only pull you over for texting and driving if the officer also saw you commit some other type of driving violation like running a red light, speeding, or failing to stop at a stop sign. In other words, a police officer cannot pull you over for simply texting and driving without something more.

What are the penalties?

A first time violator of texting while driving can receive a fine of up to $30.00. A first time offense is considered a non-moving violation; whereas, a second and subsequent violation within a five-year period is considered moving violation that adds points to a driver’s record. If a crash occurs and the driver was texting at the time of the accident, the driver will be penalized six points on their license. Adding points to a driver’s license makes it easier for insurance companies to tag high-risk drivers and increase their premiums.

Other states are following suit. Forty-four states have passed laws against sending text messages while driving. The Tampa Bay Times argues that because the Florida statute against texting and driving is a secondary offense, it is too difficult to enforce, thus that statute is rarely used and ineffective. Either way, texting while driving can cause serious harm to yourself and other.

If you have been involved in an automobile accident where another driver was texting, it is best to seek help from an experienced personal injury attorney at Boone & Davis. We are happy to offer you a consultation in our Fort Lauderdale office.

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