UPDATE 7/1: The law is now in affect
Starting today, law enforcement can pull you over if they catch you texting while driving.
UPDATE 4/17: Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the bill into law.
The new law will go into effect on July 1, 2019.
The provision regarding work zones and school zones will go into a “warning” phase on Oct. 1, 2019, with tickets starting to be issued on Jan. 1, 2020.
Original post from 4/30/19
This week Florida lawmakers took a big step toward making our roads safer from distracted drivers. On Monday, the State House voted 108-7 in favor of a bill that makes texting and driving a primary offense. That bill now sits on Governor Ron DeSantis’s desk awaiting a signature.
Why this is important:
Right now, law enforcement can’t pull you over for texting and driving. They can only cite you for texting and driving if they pull you over for some other “primary” offense, such as speeding or running a stop sign. That would change under the new law, which would make texting while driving a primary offense, giving officers the right to pull you over and give you a ticket. If signed by the governor, it would take effect July 1.
Part of the law will include a grace period in which police will issue warnings through the end of the year while the state conducts an education campaign.
What the law says:
- Texting is defined as: “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communication device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, emailing and instant messaging.”
- A first violation will cost you $30 plus court costs, a total of up to $108. A second violation within 5 years is a $60 fine plus court costs.
- If you’re in a school zone or a work zone where workers are present: you must operate your phone in a hands-free mode.
- Officers are required to tell you about your constitutional right not to have your phone searched—meaning you don’t have to give the officer your phone. However, billing records and other documents could be used in certain cases in court.
- Officers are required to record the race/ethnicity of every person stopped and ticketed for texting and driving.
- Link to full text
There are exceptions:
- Emergency responders performing official duties
- Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement
- Using the navigation feature on the phone
- Receiving safety-related information such as weather alerts
Lawmakers were concerned this bill could lead to racial disparities. During debate, Representative Al Jacquet said it would likely mean more people of color in his district would be unfairly targeted by police. For this reason, lawmakers included a provision that requires officers to report the race/ethnicity of people given citations. That data will be compiled and analyzed.
Distracted Driving is a Growing Problem
As BFF has told you, there are multiple studies that show the number of crashes involving distracted drivers has gone up as much as 4 times since 2013. Earlier this month, one study claimed distracted drivers are a bigger threat on the road than drunk drivers. Florida joins 46 other states in making Texting while Driving a Primary Offense.
Read an editorial post from BikeWalkLee, an organization fighting for safer streets in Lee County
See How Your Lawmaker Voted: