What You Need to Know About Texting and Driving in Florida
Florida has finally caught up with the rest of the U.S. as far as legislation on texting and driving is concerned. Law enforcement officers can now stop or pull over a driver who they see is texting and driving and issue them with a warning. Until January 1st next year, those warnings, however many you get, won’t mean a citation, but are intended to educate drivers about the dangers of texting and driving and the future consequences of doing so as a result of the new legislation.
The reason for the new legislation
It has generally been recognized for a long time that the use of mobile devices is a major cause of car accidents due to distracted driving. It’s taken a lot of time for the law to change as protection for individual freedom has until this year triumphed over the need to protect other road users from the abuse of that freedom. Until July 1st this year, there have been recommendations about the use of mobile devices, but no law actually restricting the use of them.
Most of those recommendations are just commonsense. Stop and pull over before you use your cell phone to call someone or text a message. Use a hands free device instead of holding a cell phone in your hand. In fact, the changes in the law are not as radical as they are elsewhere in the U.S. Florida is one of the last states to do anything about texting and driving, despite the fact that 50,000 or more accidents a year are caused by distracted driving, with between 200 and 250 fatalities.
How the new law changes the use of mobile devices
First up, the changes in the law only apply to when you are actually driving. So, if you are stuck in traffic or waiting at a red light, it is still legal to use your cell phone to answer or send a text. Of course, you still have to make a judgment whether it is actually sensible to do so. If you are half way through tapping on your phone and the traffic starts moving, what are you going to do? If you don’t move until you finish with the message, you are then holding up traffic and could theoretically be issued with a citation for impeding the flow of traffic. If you keep texting after you start moving, you could get a ticket (after January next year) for texting and driving.
The changes in the law do not affect talking on a cell phone. You are not encouraged to do this, but the law doesn’t say you can’t. The only change is that you won’t be able to hold your cell phone and use it while in a school zone or a construction zone after October 1st this year. You can still use a hands free device or use Bluetooth, even though it is not recommended while you are driving.
Penalties for texting and driving after January 1st 2020
A first offense will attract a $30 fine but no points on your driver’s license as it will be regarded as a non-moving violation. A second or subsequent offense could mean a $60 fine and 3 points n your license. That might not sound too harsh and compared to some other states, it isn’t, but the overall negative effect on you is actually much greater as your insurance premium will automatically go up next time you pay it if you are convicted of an offense. Plus you still have court and legal fees to pay.
Whatever the circumstances, if you are given a traffic ticket, it is worth fighting it. You will need the help of a determined and experienced traffic ticket attorney. In Miami, contact the Law Firm of Albert Quirantes Esq. You can contact his office at 305-644-1800.
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