Without a doubt, one of the most dangerous forms of driver distraction is texting and driving. As a matter of fact, electronic devices are currently one of the largest driver distractions plaguing safe highway travel. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there was a total of 2,777 fatalities out of the 379,928 car crashes in Florida in 2017. Even worse, Florida is currently ranked the second worst state in the nation when it comes to distracted drivers.
In recent years, Florida has enacted a number of laws meant to combat the increased number of distracted driving incidents, laws that place specific limits on electronic devices. These regulations make up the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law, and they vary depending on the type of driver and the form of communication involved.
Surprisingly enough, there are currently no laws in Florida prohibiting the driver of a passenger car from talking on cell phones while driving. It’s totally legal for drivers to make and answer calls, use handheld devices or use their vehicle’s integrated hands-free system.
State law forbids drivers from texting, e-mailing, or instant messaging while driving. As a matter of fact, it’s against the law to type anything into an electronic device’s keyboard. It should be noted that the ban on texting does not apply to drivers who report emergencies or criminal activity to law enforcement. Additionally, the law still allows drivers to use cell phones for navigation purposes and when in autonomous vehicles being operated in self-driving mode.
One interesting note is that police in Florida are not permitted to pull over a driver for texting alone. Law enforcement officers must have another valid reason to stop the vehicle before adding distracted driving to the ticket. Running a red light would, for example, be a legitimate reason to stop a vehicle.
Truck and Bus Drivers
As you might expect, commercial truck drivers and bus drivers are held to a higher standard than the typical driver of a passenger car, and the laws are much tougher in this case. Truck and bus drivers are only allowed to use wireless devices if they are hands-free. Should they violate that law, they can find themselves facing charges if found using a handheld device.
For the first time violation, a commercial driver is likely to pay a fine of $500, and additionally their company could be charged a separate fine of $2,750. Furthermore, if a driver commits three texting violations or more, he or she can be liable for a $2,750 fine and the employer will have to pay an $11,000 fine. The driver at fault will also have his or her license suspended for 120 days.
If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a distracted driving accident, John Bales Attorneys is here to help. We’ve been helping victims of auto accidents across Florida for many years, and through careful examination of the evidence, we can help determine if a driver was illegally texting at the time of your accident. Let us put our expertise and dedication to work for you. Give us a call today.