Almost everyone in Florida owns a cellphone.
And we don’t need to get into detail about how useful these phones are.
However, the downside is that it has become a source of distraction for those behind the wheel.
Based on fatal crashes between 2019 and 2020, Florida has ranked the 14th-worst state for distracted driving, with 514 deaths.
And this is why the State of Florida has responded to this dangerous driving behavior with its texting and driving law.
Today, we’ll give you all the details of the Florida texting and driving law and its penalties.
But we’ll go beyond cell phones, too. You may be surprised at the number of possible distractions surrounding drivers in Florida.
So shall we?
What is Distracted Driving?
To begin, let’s explain what distracted driving is.
In its broadest sense, distracted driving occurs anytime you do something that pulls your focus away from driving your vehicle.
Drivers are told, “Hands on the wheel, eyes on the road.” However, so many distractions are present when you’re behind the wheel.
These may fall into 3 categories:
- Visual distractions: Anything that takes your eyes off the road, like putting coordinates into your navigation system, putting on makeup, or observing billboards.
- Manual distractions: Anything that results in you taking your hands off the steering wheel. It includes eating or drinking in the car, reaching for items in the back seat, or smoking.
- Cognitive distractions: Anything that occupies your mind while driving. Being in a highly emotional state is an excellent example, and so is constructing a response to a conversation or daydreaming.
Texting and Driving Law in Florida
If you noticed, texting takes all 3 distractions — visual, manual, and cognitive.
This is why Florida enacted the Wireless Communications While Driving Law (section 316.305) on July 1, 2019. This law states:
“You cannot operate a motor vehicle and manually type into a wireless communication device simultaneously.”
Florida legislators purposely designed it to discourage you from sending text messages, emails, and instant messages while driving. However, this also includes using your mobile phone, tablet, or laptop for any other purpose.
By the end of the same year, they enacted the second part of this law. It stated:
“Texting and driving law is now a primary traffic offense in Florida. Traffic enforcers can stop and give a citation if someone is spotted using their phone while behind the wheel.”
However, this law does not apply to all situations. The FLHSMV is quick to detail the scenarios considered as exceptions. These include the following:
- You are with law enforcement, the fire service, or an emergency medical service professional, and you use your wireless device while doing your official duty.
- You’re calling the police to report an emergency or suspicious of criminal activity.
- You receive messages revolving around the following topics:
- How to operate the motor vehicle
- Information about safety, such as traffic, emergency, or weather alerts
- Radio broadcasts
- You’re using the device to help you navigate roadways.
- You’re using the device to initiate or receive a call through wireless means, like Bluetooth.
- Your vehicle is in autonomous mode.
Penalties for Texting and Driving in Florida
Since texting and driving is now a primary law, you will have to face the penalties if caught.
Here are the Florida texting and driving penalties:
Now if you violate section 316.306 (operating a wireless device in a school or work zone), it’s already considered a moving violation, even if it’s your first offense. You’ll pay a $60 fine and have 3 points assessed against your license.
Another thing. These fines do not include court costs and other fees, so prepare to pay more than the figures above.
Other Distracted Driving Scenarios to Avoid
Although the Florida law only talks about texting and driving, it isn’t the only source of distraction.
Sure, these other distractions won’t give you citations or penalties. But avoiding them will keep you safe, and that’s the most important thing.
Let’s look at these other common distracted driving scenarios to avoid.
Eating or Drinking
Yes, sometimes we can’t help it — we get hungry or thirsty while on the road. If so, be sure to use your cup holders if you get a drink. Do not, in any circumstances, try to hold it between your legs. If that spills, you’re guaranteed to shift your attention, whether hot or cold.
And yes, you can eat with one hand, but that’s still one hand off the wheel. If you really need to eat, pull over or, better yet, go somewhere to eat.
When you’re a new driver, you’re more hyper-attentive about everything. However, driving becomes second nature as years go by, so it’s easy to zone out and let rote memory take over.
Try to hone your skills of observation when you’re behind the wheel. It’ll prevent your attention from drifting away and simultaneously develop your critical thinking skills.
Anxiety and Stress
When you’ve had a difficult day at work, you often bring your worries with you as you travel home. Sometimes, however, you get so in your head that you stop paying attention to what’s happening until it’s too late.
Try to give yourself some time to shake things off before you drive. If meditation helps you get into the right headspace, a short, 5-minute practice may do wonders.
Fatigue and Drowsiness
Many people have admitted to driving while sleepy. Sometimes, it happens on the way to work because you aren’t fully awake yet. Other times, it’s when you’re on your way home.
You might not drink and drive, but driving while drowsy causes the same challenges.
Perk yourself up by drinking caffeine or cold water. Upbeat music can also help you feel more awake.
If you still feel sluggish, pull over and get out of your car. Fresh air can do you good.
Road Rage or Heightened Emotional States
When you’re tired or in a bad headspace, the slightest thing can irritate you. It doesn’t help that you share the road with drivers who cut you off or pass without signaling correctly.
When you feel that surge of irritation, you may feel the urge to go after the other vehicle.
Any kind of extreme emotion — whether it’s anger or sorrow — significantly affects your ability to make logical decisions. You’re also less likely to make safe driving maneuvers.
Pull over and take several deep breaths to calm yourself down. You can continue driving when you feel less agitated.
Searching for Items
It’s tempting to reach for something in your bag after suddenly realizing you need it. After all, it’s just in the back seat.
It sounds simple enough, but it still causes you to take your eyes off the road, and those seconds can be the difference between a safe trip and an accident. Plus, you’re left with one hand to control your vehicle.
Having Noisy or Rowdy Passengers
Having your friends with you on a road trip is great, but they can quickly become distracting if they become too noisy or rowdy. Sometimes, parents experience this when their children are with them.
Don’t hesitate to call them out if it all becomes too much. However, don’t wait until you’re about to lose your temper before you do. Remember, you can always pull over and stop for a while.
It’s a better option than trying to drive through the noise. Once everyone’s had a chance to settle down, you can continue on your way.
The Wrap Up
So that was the Florida texting and driving law.
Remember, driving requires 100% of your attention!
Focusing on other things while behind the wheel is dangerous. You may unwittingly put yourself and others in harm’s way.
So put your phone aside and make sure you’re in the right state of mind before putting your key in the ignition. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.