Motorists in Florida started July with a new state law that makes texting while driving a primary offense.
Previously, the infraction was a secondary offense. Florida is one of the last states to handle this specific form of distracted driving as a primary offense.
While the law went into effect on July 1, only warnings will be issued until January. In 2020, however, when officers can begin writing citations, a first offense will be punishable by a $30 fine. A second violation will cost $60. Court costs and fees also would apply, and points will be added to driving records. (While Florida’s fines for the offense aren’t as steep as some other states, points assessed against your license can definitely impact your pocketbook in the form of potentially higher insurance rates.)
Specifically, the 2019 amendment states a person may not operate a motor vehicle while “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters in a wireless communications device.”
The new law also bans the use of any handheld wireless communications devices in school and construction zones. Warnings are being issued, but citations for illegal use of handheld wireless devices in these specific areas will begin on Oct. 1, 2019.
With any new legislation, there are bound to be questions. Here are a few key points:
This latest legislation comes after years of studies on the consequences of distracted driving.
According to the Insurance Journal, Florida is one of eight states that saw a nearly 6% spike in fatalities in 2018. Driver behavior was one of the main reasons attributed to lives lost in car crashes.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles breaks distracted driving down into three categories: Visual, manual and cognitive. Texting requires all three of these distractions. In 2018, distracted driving caused almost 1,400 crashes in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
While texting while driving is now a primary offense, other visual, manual and cognitive factors remain less regulated and a persistent problem. There’s no specific law against applying makeup, eating or being otherwise preoccupied. Regardless, distracted driving is a form of careless driving for which you can be cited.
The safest way to travel is with your hands on the wheel, your eyes on the road and nothing to distract you from the task at hand: arriving safely at your destination.
Attorney Julie S. Luhrsen attributes her success as a lawyer to the training and experience she obtained serving as an Army JAG lawyer. Beyond the cases she tried, she learned invaluable lessons about leadership and teamwork that she uses daily at Luhrsen Goldberg and on behalf of her personal injury clients. While proud to hold a Martindale-Hubbell AV Preeminent™ Peer Review Rating, her most gratifying accomplishment was to be the recipient of the American Bar Association’s Legal Assistance for Military Personnel award. In practice in Florida for over 15 years, Julie focuses on representing the injured and providing them the support and legal guidance needed to attain the best result possible. She welcomes the chance to help Florida families recover after serious accidents and from legal wrongs.