Governor Scott just signed a new ban on texting while driving into law. Florida joins 40 other states in implementing the latest in “Distracted Driving” laws designed to make roads safer.
The ban, which will go into effect October 1 of this year, considers texting while driving to be a secondary offense, which means that a police officer may not pull a driver over solely for texting while driving. Texting can, however, result in an additional citation. A driver’s first violation will result in a $30 fine plus court costs. Upon subsequent violations, drivers will be fined $60, assessed court costs, and have three points added to their driver’s license record. There are further enhancements if the texting-while-driving takes place in a school zone or results in a traffic accident.
Even under the ban, drivers will still be permitted to use their phones under some circumstances. For example, drivers will continue to be able use their phones to obtain emergency information, such as weather and traffic alerts. The ban also does not apply to the use of phones as navigation devices.
The new law does allow for authorities to review cellular phone records when an accident results in death or personal injury. In such a case, evidence of texting while driving will be some evidence of negligence. Police officers, however, cannot require the driver hand over a cell phone at the time of the accident to verify that the driver was texting.
Critics of the law suggest that it is too weak; urging that texting while driving should be a primary offense. They also point out that, under the ban, drivers will not be prohibited from texting while stopped in traffic or at red lights. Also, the current ban does nothing to prohibit talking on the phone while driving. These critics would rather Florida enact a complete ban on the use of cellular phones while driving. Eleven states currently have a complete ban. Many other states completely ban young drivers from using cell phones at all while driving.
Distracted Driving in Florida
Driving while distracted is dangerous. In 2010, over 3,000 people were killed by distracted drivers. Eleven percent of drivers aged 18-20 who were involved in an accident admitted to sending or receiving texts immediately before the accident. Some studies suggest that texting while driving is even more dangerous than driving while under the influence of alcohol, noting that reaction times and stopping distances are worse for those drivers who are texting. Despite its dangers, texting while driving is quite common. One recent study found that 52 percent of drivers over the age of 18 admitted to texting while behind the wheel.
Legal Help in Florida
If you or a loved one has been injured in car accident because of someone else’s negligence, contact our Jacksonville car accident attorneys. Our office is located on the southbank in downtown Jacksonville, but we are willing to meet with you at your home or a location convenient to you. You pay nothing unless we recover damages on your behalf.