Distracted Driving Laws in Florida
While distracted driving in Florida is a serious issue throughout the state, current laws do not prohibit all uses of handheld electronic devices while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle. However, the act of texting and driving is illegal and motorists who violate this law may receive a traffic ticket from local law enforcement officials. To prevent future distracted driving accidents, it is important to refrain from any type of cell phone use while behind the wheel of a vehicle unless motorists use a hands-free component such as a Bluetooth.
According to national distracted driving facts, driver distractedness is a countywide issue, resulting in the deaths of 3,450 individuals during the 2016 year alone. In 2015, inattentive drivers contributed to the injuries of 391,000 individuals. To improve driver behaviors throughout the U.S., many states have enacted local laws that ban the use of handheld cell phones. For more information about Florida’s law about cell phone use, review the sections below.
What is distracted driving in Florida?
While punishable distracted driving pertains to reading, writing or sending text messages while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, other types of distractions are just as dangerous. For instance, driving distractions are any type of activity that diverts the driver’s visual, manual or cognitive abilities away from the road ahead. If a driver diverts his or her eyes, hands or mind away from the task of driving, then he or she increases the risk of causing a potentially fatal traffic accident.
In addition to texting while driving, other types of distractions include eating or drinking, interacting with children, pets and other passengers, applying makeup, daydreaming, or grooming while behind the wheel of a vehicle. Staring out of the driver or passenger’s side window or paying attention to non-driving events are also dangerous behaviors.
Because the distracted driving laws in FL are not as strict as the regulations in many other states, inattentive drivers are responsible for the injuries of thousands of individuals each year. In 2014, for instance, 41,264 crashes were caused by distracted motorists. Around 3,278 of those crashes resulted in incapacitating injuries while 208 were deadly. Moreover, 26,286 crashes were the result of driver inattentiveness, while 198 were due to texting.
According to local facts about distracted driving from 2017, there were 49,288 distraction-related crashes in the state. About 3,012 of them resulted in incapacitating injuries, while 214 were deadly. A total of 34,039 crashes were the result of driver inattentiveness, while 162 were due to texting. In 2015, there were 200 texting-related crashes compared to the 190 crashes in 2016.
Distracted Driving Laws in Florida for Handheld Devices
The Florida distracted driving law does not ban the use of handheld electronic devices for the purpose of navigation or communication. For instance, drivers may perform any type of wireless communication while driving as long as the activity does not require manual data entry such as texting. While talking on the phone while driving is not illegal in Florida, motorists can reduce potential distractions by using a hands-free communication device. However, the use of a hands-free component is not mandatory in the state.
Texting and Driving Laws in Florida
While most types of cell phone use while driving in FL are legal, the acts of texting, emailing and instant messaging are illegal whenever motorists are operating a moving motor vehicle. Additionally, drivers cannot read incoming messages while driving, and they may not browse the internet while behind the wheel of a vehicle.
Florida Laws on Distracted Driving for Novice Drivers
The same texting while driving laws in Florida apply to adult and novice motorists. In the state, no special laws pertain to teenage drivers or members of the Graduated Licensing Program (GDL).
Florida Distracted Driving Regulations for CDL Holders
Similar laws against distracted driving in Florida concern to commercial vehicle drivers. For instance, the act of reading and sending text messages while driving a commercial vehicle is prohibited. However, commercial driver’s license (CDL) holders are also prohibited from using any type of handheld wireless communications device while operating a commercial vehicle. Instead, they must use a hands-free component if they need to talk on the phone.
Distracted Driving Penalties in Florida
If motorists text and drive in FL, then the offense is treated as a noncriminal traffic infraction and drivers are charged with committing a nonmoving violation. However, motorists who violate this law more than once within a five-year period will be punished for committing a moving violation. For instance, texting and driving penalties may include:
- A citation and the need to appear before an official.
- 120 hours of community service if the infraction results in the death of another individual.
- Civil penalty fees.
- The need to enroll in a driver improvement school.
If the crash results in the death of another individual, then the driver’s cell phone provider will also need to release his or her cell phone records, as these documents will be used as evidence in court.
If CDL holders text while driving a commercial vehicle, then they may need to pay a fine of up to $2,750 and they may lose their CDL credentials for a period of 60 or 120 days.
Ways to Prevent Distracted Driving in Florida
To stop distracted driving accidents, motorists must obey the statewide ban on texting while driving in FL, as doing so reduces instances of traffic-related injuries and fatalities. To reduce the risk of distractions while behind the wheel of a vehicle, motorists may:
- Download a text-blocking app for their smartphone. Top-rated apps include It Can Wait, Down for the Count, Canary, OneTap, On My Way (OMW) and AT&T Drivemode.
- Secure pets, kids and personal belongings. To reduce distractions, drivers may try seating their pets, kids and cell phones near the back of the vehicle.
- Pre-program their navigation systems. Instead of programming their GPS devices on-the-road, motorists can reduce distractions by pre-planning their route.
- Turn their phones on silent. To reduce the temptation of glancing at their phone, drivers may switch their phones to “do not disturb” mode until they reach their destination.