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Florida’s Texting and Driving Ban: What’s Actually Prohibited?

There has been a lot of confusion concerning Florida Statute 316.305, commonly called Florida’s “texting and driving ban.” The “Wireless Communications Device Prohibition” went into effect at midnight on October 1, 2013. The bill, SB 52, which Gov. Rick Scott signed into law on May 28, prohibits motorists from using their cellphones to text or email while driving, with some exceptions. The Florida Statute 316.305 can be read here in its entirety.

Under the statute a person “may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications 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, e-mailing, and instant messaging” (emphasis added). The law goes on to define a “wireless communications device” as anything used or capable of being used in a handheld manner that is capable of text based messages or internet communications.

The current violation for texting and driving is a secondary offense, which means police officers can only write a citation if the driver is pulled over for another violation; you cannot be pulled over for using a wireless device alone. While you cannot type and drive, it is still legal to thumb away at that message while stopped at a red light or stuck in a traffic jam. While stopped in one of these situations, should an officer ask to see the phone in question you’re not obligated to hand it over.

Additionally, not every function on your phone is forbidden. Drivers are allowed to use their devices while reporting criminal activity, listening to music or using text-to-talk systems such as Siri. Drivers can still use phones for music, navigation apps, or to pick up a call.

Although there are exceptions to the “texting and driving ban,” you may want to consider putting the phone down entirely. In Florida from 2010 through 2011, at least 85 crashes caused by distracted drivers turned fatal, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The state has more than 120,000 miles of roads used by more than 15 million licensed drivers. According to the NHTSA, talking on a cellphone causes nearly 25 percent of car crashes. Additionally, in 2008 almost 6,000 people were killed and 500,000 were injured in crashes related to driver distraction.

According to https://www.distraction.gov, sending or reading a text message while driving removes a driver’s focus on the road and surroundings for an average of 4.6 seconds, or roughly the equivalent of driving the length of a football field at 55 miles per hour entirely blind. Approximately twenty percent of teenage drivers and 10 percent of parents have admitted to having multi-text extended text conversations while driving. And that number consists merely of those who admit to doing it. Even reaching for a cell phone, let alone using one to dial a number or type a text message, increases the risk of getting into an accident by three times.

According to a privately run website, www.textinganddrivingsafely.com, using data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and other news sources, 23 percent of all auto collisions in 2011 involved at least one driver using a cell phone — that amounts to 1.3 million crashes.

If you or someone you know was the victim of an accident involving a motorist who was texting while driving, give one of the experienced auto accident attorneys at the Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA a call today at 727-445-6900 for a free consultation. For more information about distracted driving, please review our website; https://www.dolmanlaw.com/practice-area/distracted-drivers/