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New Florida Law to Limit Distracted Driving on Florida Roadway

Distracted Driving Problem Addressed Through New Law

During a time where interpersonal communications are inherently dependent upon cellular devices, the risk of distracted driving on Florida roadways have increased significantly. As a direct result of distracted driving, traffic accidents across the United States resulting in personal injury and passenger fatality have become more prevalent. 

Nationwide Distracted Driving Statistics

With increased accessibility to quick and direct communication with friends and colleagues alike, drivers are inherently likely to become distracted while operating their motor vehicle. According to an April 2019 report by The Zebra, 37% of respondents aged 18-34 said that they felt a high degree of pressure to respond to work-related messages while driving, compared to 25% of the national average among all age groups. Presumably due to the increased familiarity and confidence operating cellular devices, teen drivers are inherently susceptible to distracted driving. In fact, distracted driving, including texting while driving, is the cause of more than 58% of crashes involving teen drivers.

Every day, roughly nine people are killed, and more than 1,000 people are injured in accidents of which at least one driver was distracted. As of April 2019, distracted driving was the reported factor in 8.5% of fatal motor vehicle crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 3,000 motorists are killed each year in distracted driving collisions, meanwhile, by some estimates, one-third of all traffic collisions involve driver distraction, resulting in more than 10,000 road deaths each year.

In 2018 alone, 4,637 individuals lost their life as a result of distracted driving accidents, up from 3,166 in 2017. AAA studies show that drivers who text and drive are eight times more likely to be involved in a crash. In 2016, about 51,000 Florida crashes were attributed to distracted driving. Some of these crashes involved fatalities.

Florida Driving Law Changes

A pair of Florida laws change the way drivers may use their “wireless communication device” while operating a motor vehicle.

Updates to the first law, known as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law,” went into effect on July 1, 2019.

Meanwhile, an entirely new Florida law, focused specifically on wireless communication use in school and work zones, went into effect on October 1, 2019.

Both laws intend to improve roadway safety for all vehicle operators, passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and all other road users. Additionally, these laws intend to prevent crashes, personal injuries, and deaths related to distracted driving.

Florida Statue §316.305 – “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law”

Recently, after the enactment of Fla. Stat. §316.305, effective July 1, 2019, Florida became just the 45th state to make texting while driving a primary offense.

A primary offense means that a police officer may stop and issue a citation to a distracted driver caught using their wireless communication device while behind the wheel. 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 such as texting, emailing, and instant messaging.

Before this update law, Florida’s existing law made texting and driving a secondary offense, meaning a driver could not be pulled over solely for cellphone use while driving and instead must be stopped for another vehicle infraction before a distracted-driving citation could be issued. Under this law, the first violation for drivers is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a “nonmoving violation” with no points assessed to the driver’s record. The second violation within five years of the date of the prior conviction commits a non-criminal traffic infraction, punishable as a “moving violation.” 

Section 316.305 does not apply to a motor vehicle operator who is:

  • Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle (law enforcement, fire service or emergency medical services professional).
  • Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
  • Receiving messages that are: related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle; safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts; data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or radio broadcasts.
  • Using a device or system for navigation purposes.
  • Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
  • Conducting wireless communication that does not require reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
  • Operating an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode.
  • Stationary at the time of use (stopped at a traffic light, stopped on the side of the road, etc.)

Florida Statute §316.306

The second of the two Florida laws (Fla. Stat. §316.306) is new and aims at improving roadway safety in school and work zones. As of October 1, 2019, a person may not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner when driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone area of which construction personnel are present or operating equipment on or near the road.

Per the statute, police officers are instructed to issue written and verbal warnings, rather than citations, to inform the public of this newly enacted law through December 31, 2019.

However, effective January 1st, 2020, a law enforcement officer may stop a motor vehicle and issue a citation to an individual failing to obey this statute. Any person who violates this section commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation and will have 3 points assessed to his or her driver’s license unless the driver participates and completes a device driving safety program. 

Section 316.306, Florida Statutes, it is only applicable to work zone areas if construction personnel are immediately present or are operating equipment on the road or immediately adjacent to the work zone area. The law also does not apply to a motor vehicle operator who is:

  • Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle (law enforcement, fire service or emergency medical services professional).
  • Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
  • Receiving messages that are: related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle; safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts; data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or radio broadcasts.
  • Using a device or system in a hands-free manner for navigation purposes.
  • Using a wireless communications device hands-free or hands-free in voice-operated mode, including, but not limited to, a factory-installed or after-market Bluetooth device.
  • Stationary at the time of use (stopped at a traffic light, stopped on the side of the road, etc.)

Hands-Free and Navigation

Florida drivers are still permitted, by law, to operate a wireless communications devise using a hands-free device, such as an earbud or Bluetooth technology. Additionally, Florida drivers may still use their phone at any time for GPS purposes, so long as the driver is using the device or system in a hands-free manner, such as earbuds, factory-installed technology, or Bluetooth technology.

Distracted Drivings Effects on Your Case

Both §316.305(3)(d) and 316.306(3)(d) provide that “only in the event of a crash resulting in death or serious bodily injury . . . may a user’s billing records for a wireless communications device, or the testimony of or written statements from appropriate authorities receiving such messages, be admissible as evidence in any proceeding to determine whether a violation [of the law] has been committed.”

Therefore, if you have been in an auto accident in the state of Florida, it is important that you inform your attorney of any suspicion you have that the at-fault party was improperly using a wireless communications device at the time of the accident. Determining all factors of a crash, as well as identifying all responsible parties, will offer victims the best chance of obtaining adequate compensation for their injuries from the at-fault party. It is important that you provide the responding officer, during the investigation, and your attorney, during your initial free consultation, of all the details surrounding the accident.

Furthermore, pursuant to these statutes, a driver on the roadway has impliedly committed the tort of negligence, using a theory of “Res Ipsa Loquitor,” when their improper use of a wireless communication device, in violation of these laws, causes personal injury to a third party. Furthermore, an individual operating a motor vehicle on a Florida roadway is obligated to act as a reasonably prudent driver, which includes driving without distractions. As a result of an accident, if you have been injured by a party in violation of these Florida Statutes, you likely have a valid claim today. Committing to not driving while distracted will not only reduce your chances of causing a crash, but it will also reduce the likelihood that you will be found liable for negligence to a third-party.

Seek an Experienced Car Accident Attorney

If you have been injured in an auto accident due to the negligence of a distracted driver, call Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA today! If you are a construction worker that has suffered personal injury due to the negligence of a distracted driver, in violation of these statutes, you have a claim. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or contact us online for your free consultation.

Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765
(727) 451-6900

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