Recently, new legislation, Florida Statute section 316.305, was enacted through the endorsement of the governor of Florida to officially upgraded the act of texting while driving to a primary offense, thereby allowing law enforcement officers to pull motorists over and issue a citation solely for texting (including messaging, emailing, and other forms of typing on a mobile device) behind the wheel.
Why Is Texting and Driving Now a Primary Offense?
Its purpose is to reduce distracted driving and create a safer environment for all motorists on the roadways. The law prohibits the manual typing or entering of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols into a wireless communications device while operating a motor vehicle in order to text, email, and instant message. As a direct consequence of this upgrade, officers are now empowered to initiate stops based solely upon the suspicion of texting while driving. In the antecedent legal framework, the infraction of texting while driving was relegated to the category of a secondary offense, permitting officers to issue citations solely subsequent to the apprehension of drivers for primary violations, such as moving violations. As texting and driving and proven to be incredibly dangerous, the offense has been upgraded to a primary one.
Florida Statute section 316.305 is also known as the Wireless Communications While Driving Law. Its purpose is to reduce distracted driving and create a safer environment for all motorists on the roadways. In addition to prohibiting texting by all drivers as a primary offense, Florida’s law also bans the use of any handheld wireless communication devices in designated school crossings, school zones, or a road work zone. An exception is made for emergency hands-free uses that remain legal. Drivers are still permitted to use phones and devices for Maps / GPS navigation, making phone calls, and reading emergency messages, such as weather alerts.
The Dangers of Texting and Driving
Texting and driving is considered extremely dangerous due to the significant cognitive, visual, and manual distractions it creates for the driver. Some reasons why texting and driving poses a high risk include:
Texting requires mental focus and attention, diverting the driver’s concentration away from the road. When a driver’s mind is engaged in composing or reading a text message, they are less attentive to the changing traffic conditions and potential hazards around them.
Looking at a text message on a mobile device involves taking one’s eyes off the road. Even a momentary glance away from the road can lead to missing crucial information, such as a sudden stop or a pedestrian crossing.
Typing out a text message requires the use of one or both hands, which means the driver’s hands are not on the steering wheel. This diminishes the driver’s ability to respond quickly to unexpected events or emergencies.
Increased Reaction Time
Engaging in texting while driving increases the time it takes for a driver to react to unexpected situations. This delayed reaction time can result in collisions or near misses.
Decreased Situational Awareness
Texting drivers may not notice changes in traffic patterns, road signs, or signals. This reduced awareness can lead to missed turns, incorrect lane changes, and failure to yield to other drivers.
Risk of Collisions
Texting drivers are more likely to drift out of their lane, fail to maintain a consistent speed, or neglect to follow proper traffic etiquette. These behaviors significantly increase the risk of collisions with other vehicles, pedestrians, or stationary objects.
Severity of Accidents
When a driver is not fully focused on the road, their ability to avoid or mitigate the impact of a collision is compromised. This can lead to more severe accidents and injuries.
What Are the Punishments for Texting and Driving?
Under the law, a first texting offense will be punishable by a $30 fine and court fees. A second offense carries a $60 fine, court costs and related fees, and three points on a driver’s license. A first offense involving texting in school or construction zones also carries additional license points. First offenders can purchase hands-free Bluetooth devices, show proof of purchase, and complete a “Driver Safety Education” course in order to avoid fines and license penalties.
The Impact of Texting and Driving on Road Safety
It’s far too quick and easy to sideswipe a car, hit a pedestrian, or even cause a fatal accident when the driver’s attention is on their phone screen and not out their windshield. DIn fact, this type of distracted driving has been linked to an increased risk of injury and fatality on roads across America.
According to the United States Department of Transportation, texting while driving caused 3,142 fatalities in 2020. Here in our state alone, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported 333 distracted driving fatalities in 2021. This was the highest total in our state in the previous eight years. More than 1,000 distraction-related crashes occur every week!
Our law firm, Nuñez Law, has been helping injured victims of South Florida for over a decade. Our law firm handles a variety of cases, including crashes that are the result of texting and driving. Call our car accident law firm at 786-882-2038 to reach out to a Miami accident lawyer about your case.