Texting While Driving (Transcript)
Paul R. Cavonis, Injury Law and Board Certified Civil Trial Attorney
Florida's law regarding texting while driving changed in 2019. The most significant change in the 2019 law is that a citation for texting while driving is now what is commonly called a primary offense. What that means is that a police officer can pull you over specifically for the purpose of giving you a citation because you are texting while driving. Under the previous version of the law, the citation was what we called a secondary offense. What that means is that the police officer had to pull you over for some other reason, typically speeding or running a stop sign or some other moving violation before they can issue a citation for texting while driving.
So to be clear, so everyone understands that now a police officer, if they see you texting while driving, they can issue you a citation for that reason only without having any other justification to pull you over. Only texting while driving is prohibited. You can still text if your vehicle is stopped. That includes if your vehicle is stopped at a stop sign or at a traffic light. Good way to consider it or look at it as this way. If your vehicle is not in motion, even though you're in it, you're on the roadway, you're behind the wheel, if your vehicle is not in motion, it is okay to text and drive under the law.
May not always be a good idea to do it depending on the roadway circumstances, but you won't get a citation for it. Another question that we commonly get is whether people can still use their handheld devices in a handheld manner by inputting numbers for phone calls and the answer to that question is yes. You could still use your handheld device to make and receive phone calls.
You can still use your handheld device to receive navigation instructions, to input an address if you're trying to find a location. You can still use your cell phone, your handheld device to stream music. There is one, actually, two big exceptions to that, and this was a separate statute, a separate law that came into effect in late 2019 which prohibited in virtually all instances the use of your handheld device if you're in a school zone or a work zone.
So if they see you with your phone up to your ear, you can get a ticket for that because you're actually using your phone as a handheld device and you're obviously doing something with it in violation of the statute. The offenses vary. The penalties for violating the law vary depending on how many offenses you've had. The first offense, it's a $30 fine and one point on your license. Subsequent offenses are $60 and up to three points on your license if you're caught within five years.
The other point that I want to make is that even though you may be doing something not in technical violation of the law, and I'll use the example of making or receiving a phone call using your handheld device, you have it up to your ear or you're inputting a number for the purpose of making a call. Even though that may not be a violation of the law, it can increase your civil liability in the event you were involved in a crash.
Even though it may be legal under the statute, that can still be used against you. Obviously, common sense tells us that the safest way to use your phone is in a hands free manner. Even safer than that is to simply not use your phone at all.