False news stories about Florida passing a “new texting and driving law” has left many drivers unsure about what they can and can’t do behind the wheel. Misinformation about the existing and potential future cell phone laws in Florida can make it difficult to understand and protect your rights as a driver. If you saw the Facebook post claiming that Florida law enforcement now has the power to ticket “everyone with cell phones in their hands,” don’t believe it. Here’s the truth on the matter.
The Source of the Confusion
Back in February, a Facebook post emerged claiming that Florida passed a new law to help prevent car accidents. According to the post (which received hundreds of thousands of shares), Florida lawmakers had passed legislation that permitted police officers to hand out hefty $250 tickets to anyone they saw holding a cell phone. The post even linked to the Florida Department of Motor Vehicle’s website. The post sent many Floridians into a panic since the state had previously not banned all forms of cell phone use while driving.
Florida drivers who saw the post thought the state had passed a new law – one that could result in an expensive fine. The post, however, contained false information. In reality, Florida had passed no such law. The state’s cell phone laws are the same as they have been: drivers cannot text and drive, but they may use handheld cell phones to make and take phone calls behind the wheel. If a driver breaks a roadway rule while using his/her cell phone, this could also result in a fine. Simply holding a cell phone, however, will not cost you $250.
Florida’s (Real) Texting and Driving Laws
Texting while driving is arguably the most dangerous form of driver distraction. It causes thousands of accidents every year. Texting requires a driver’s mental, visual, and manual attention. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, sending or reading a single text at 55 miles per hour is the equivalent of driving the length of a football field blindfolded. Like many states, Florida has passed laws banning texting and driving to help improve safety on the state’s roads.
The 2018 Florida Statutes, Section 316.305 contains the details of the state’s cell phone laws. It is the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law,” and a trusted source of information about the latest changes and updates to the law. According to the statute, it is a secondary offense to operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or sending/reading data on a wireless communications device. This means that while drivers can get tickets for texting and driving, the officer must pull the vehicle over for a different reason.
While Georgia passed a primary handheld cell phone law around the same time as the false Facebook post, Florida legislation was nowhere near passing any such law. The cell phone laws have remained the same for the last year, permitting drivers to talk on handheld devices but not to send or read texts on them. Keep your eye on more trustworthy news sources for any updates, changes, or new laws regarding the state’s texting and driving legislation in the future.
Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel Is Still Dangerous
The illegality of holding a cell phone while driving in Florida is false, but the dangers surrounding driver distraction are not. Just because talking on a handheld phone behind the wheel is legal in Florida does not make it safe for drivers. Texting and driving accidents happen every day around the U.S. Cell phone distractions can cost victims their lives. Protect yourself and others on the road by dedicating 100% of your undivided attention to the driving task. Put your phone away while you drive, whether the law obligates you to or not. If you’ve been in a texting and driving accident, consult with a lawyer about your rights.