Texting while driving has never been a good idea, and now, starting Oct. 1, it will also be illegal. That’s when a new ban on texting while driving goes into effect. Motorists are now looking at a $30 fine for the first offense and $60 for a second, plus court costs. Like with all driving laws and the tickets they involve, there are some things you should know.
Unfortunately, while we don’t object to a law prohibiting texting while driving – never a good idea – the State of Florida dropped the cell phone (so to speak) when enacting this one.
For one thing, the state is doing next to nothing to get the word out about the fact that the law already went into effect. Chances are that with all the media hoopla many knew a ban on texting while driving was coming. But don’t feel uninformed if you didn’t know it was already here.
It’s not like the state hadn’t thought about instituting a publicity campaign. There was a $1 million budgeted to help spread the word about the texting ban, but Governor Rick Scott vetoed that money faster than you can text “WTF.”
Many will now have to depend on digital message boards along the highway lighting up with the message “Don’t Text and Drive. It’s the Law,” on Oct. 1 and 15. And we know how effective those are!
Now that you know the law the law is here, it’s time to get down to brass texts: The full text of the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law is here, but the most salient points are the following:
“A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging.”
Interestingly, much of the language in the statute concerns exceptions to the law, notably: “(A) motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the (ban).” That includes when you are stopped at a traffic light or in gridlocked traffic, presumably.
Other exceptions include:
- Texting to report an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
- Receiving messages related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle; Safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts; Data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or Radio broadcasts.
- And, this is our favorite, an exception for “using a device or system for navigation purposes.” Don’t get us wrong, we understand the thought behind the exception, it just seems a little bit silly that a law that essentially bans texting while navigating a car, makes an exception if you are texting for navigation purposes. That falls into the category of “things that make you go hmmm.“
Finally, and this is very important, the ban is classified as a secondary offense, meaning cops can't pull you over just for texting. An officer will first have to see you commit another infraction (e.g. running a stop sign or driving recklessly) to stop and write you a ticket.
The first offense carries no points but if you are cited twice within a 5 year period, points will be issued. Texting in a school zone or when an accident is involved makes this a worse offense and the penalties would increase.
Florida is the 41st state to enact a ban on texting while driving, but the Sunshine State’s ban is considerably weaker than many others. That’s a good thing or not depending on your point of view. What is certain is that you will be hearing more about this soon.
If you get a ticket for texting while driving, we can help. Please give us a call at 866-374-8355 or if you would like a FREE consultation, we're happy to talk to you.