House Bill 107: Understanding Florida’s New Texting & Driving Law
Texting & Driving in Florida
Each year, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) releases a “Traffic Crash Facts” report that lists updated statistics regarding motor vehicle collisions. According to the 2017 report, there are approximately 1,098 motor vehicle accidents in Florida each day, and a majority of these collisions are caused by distracted cell phone users.
Why Is Texting So Dangerous?
Traffic safety experts at the DHSMV have identified three types of driving distractions: manual (taking your hands off the wheel), visual (taking your eyes off the road), and cognitive (thinking about anything other than driving). Texting while driving is so dangerous because it encompasses all three of these categories. In fact, the National Safety Council claims that texting and general cell phone use were responsible for 1.6 million crashes and over 3,000 fatalities in 2017.
What About Hands-Free Devices?
Despite common misconceptions, hands-free and voice-command devices aren’t an effective answer to the texting dilemma because they also provide ongoing distractions for drivers. While “multitasking” may be one of the most common skill sets listed on a resume, it’s not an ideal trait for a driver and is even considered a myth by most safety organizations. Whenever a driver texts, utilizes speech-to-text technology, or enjoys a hands-free conversation, their attention is naturally pulled away from the road and they are no longer able to process 50% of their surroundings. As the National Safety Council explains, this common scenario “often results in crashes due to delayed braking times and not seeing traffic signals.”
What You Need to Know About House Bill 107
Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed House Bill 107 into law on May 17, 2019. This law, which goes into effect on July 1, 2019, makes texting while driving a primary traffic offense and creates hands-free areas around school zones and construction sites.
House Bill 107 officially reads: “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.”
However, these changes will be gradually introduced to the public over the next two years. Between October 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019, law enforcement officials can only issue verbal or written warnings to any violators.
On October 1, 2019, it will be unlawful to use a cell phone while driving by:
- School zones
- School crossings
- Construction sites
- Road work zones
As of January 1, 2020, a driver can be pulled over on suspicion of texting while driving and issued a citation. Although a first violation only carries a $30 fine (for now), a driver’s insurance rates will be negatively affected by the offense. Fortunately for violators, Florida law is fairly lenient when it comes to dismissing tickets. As Amy O’Connor of the Insurance Journal explains, “People who are issued citations can have three points assessed against their driver’s license, however, first-time offenders can elect to participate in a wireless communications device driving safety program and, upon completion, have costs and points waived by a court clerk.” She also adds that first-time offenders can have their cases dismissed if they can prove to the court that they purchased a hands-free device.
Unfortunately, it is still legal to text under the following circumstances:
- The driver is waiting at a stoplight.
- The driver’s vehicle is completely stationary.
- The driver is receiving safety-related messages.
- The driver is reporting an emergency or criminal activity.
- The driver is a first responder.
At The Pittman Firm, P.A., we are firm supporters of any legislative effort that prevents traffic collisions and protects our fellow Floridians. Hopefully, future bills will continue this positive trend by eliminating the more questionable exemptions and placing new restrictions on hands-free devices.
Injured by a Distracted Driver? Contact The Pittman Firm, P.A. Today
Contact the trial-tested car accident lawyers at The Pittman Firm, P.A. if you or a loved one has been injured by the reckless actions of a distracted driver. Our award-winning firm has over 30 years of legal experience and a comprehensive understanding of this challenging legal process. With our guidance, you can recover a settlement or verdict that covers your medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
We provide our services on a contingency fee basis, so don’t hesitate to schedule a free consultation today. Contact The Pittman Firm, P.A. at (850) 784-6997 to explore your legal options with an experienced attorney.