Texting and driving now a primary offense in Florida

As of July 1, 2019, law enforcement officers can stop drivers caught texting behind the wheel. Prior to the passage of this new law, an officer could ticket a driver for this offense only when stopping him or her for a different primary offense.

Get the facts about this new law to avoid a costly fine and potentially causing a serious accident.

Prohibited actions

The statute specifically mentions that drivers may not type, instant message or send emails while operating a motor vehicle. The law prohibits all use of handheld devices within work zones and school zones. Drivers may use voice to type commands or hands-free devices to send messages and make calls.

The law does not apply in certain circumstances, including situations where:

  • The person is operating a completely autonomous vehicle such as a self-driving car.
  • The driver is performing his or her duties while operating an emergency vehicle.
  • The driver is using the device to navigate.
  • The driver is reporting a possible crime or emergency situation to local police.
  • The driver is receiving critical safety-related information, such as in a hurricane or natural disaster.

Fines for distracted driving

Florida drivers cited for texting and driving will receive fines starting at $30 plus associated court costs. Penalties increase when the offense occurred in a school zone or construction zone. The fine doubles to $60 for a second distracted driving conviction.

License points

Drivers convicted of texting and driving a second time will receive three points on their motor vehicle record. If you get 12 points in a 12-month timespan, you will receive a 30-day driver’s license suspension.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, drivers caused more than 170 crashes by texting behind the wheel in 2018 alone. If you have suffered an injury in this type of incident, you could receive legal compensation for your medical bills and associated costs.