Did you know: In the time it takes to read or send a text message, roughly five seconds, a car going 55 mph travels the length of a football field?

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, accidents involving distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,166 people nationwide in 2017 alone. In response, many states have enacted traffic laws limiting or banning cell phone use altogether while driving. In the last few months, Florida lawmakers passed a new texting and driving law set to go into effect this summer.

The scope of Florida’s ban on texting and driving

The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law prohibits drivers from typing or reading messages on their phone or another wireless device while driving. However, the law also provides exceptions for those using their phone to report an emergency or suspicious activity. It also does not prohibit:

  • Reading or sending texts when the vehicle is stationary (like at a stoplight)
  • Using a phone for navigation purposes
  • Performing official duties as a driver of an emergency vehicle
  • Receiving messages with safety information, weather alerts or traffic updates
  • Using your phone’s hands-free capabilities

The focus of the ban is on “manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols,” i.e., texting.

How the new law differs from previous texting and driving rules

Many of our readers know that texting while driving has already been illegal in Florida for some time. However, the new law enhances those rules by making texting and driving a “primary violation.” That means the police can pull you over solely because they suspect you were texting. Florida joins 44 other states that have made texting and driving a primary offense.

The law also places a blanket ban on handheld use of cell phones in school zones, designated school crossings and road work zones.

Penalties for texting and driving infractions

The penalties remain the same as when texting and driving was a secondary offense: a noncriminal moving violation with a $30 fine for a first offense and a $60 fine for a second offense within five years.

The new distracted driving law goes into effect on July 1, 2019.