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A review of 2019 Florida statutes that address distracted driving

Despite the known dangers, Florida motorists continue to use cell phones while operating their vehicles. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reported that distracted driving was a factor in nearly 50,000 automobile accidents in 2016.

In response, legislators drafted two laws that took effect in 2019, intending to encourage drivers to put their devices down and pay attention to the road.

Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law

Fla. § 316.305, otherwise known as the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law, took effect on July 1, 2019. Although using a handheld electronic device to send messages while driving was already illegal, this particular update makes the action a primary offense.

Previously, law enforcement officers could only cite motorists for texting while driving after stopping them for a violation, such as speeding or failing to obey traffic signals. Now, officers who witness drivers with phones in their hands can ticket them based only on that fact. There are a few exceptions relevant to everyday driving: For example, the law still allows texting while the vehicle is stationary, calling the authorities in an emergency and exempts on-duty first responders.

Florida § 316.306

Fla. § 316.306, effective on Oct. 1, 2019, and fully enforced as of Jan. 1, 2020, prohibits the use of any handheld device in an operating construction zone, school zone or school crossing. This violation is also a primary offense and a 3-point driver’s license infraction. The exceptions are nearly identical to those for the ban on texting statute, and the law does not apply in unoccupied work areas.

Both statutes aim to discourage texting and any other manual use of a cell phone or tablet while a vehicle is in motion. Using an electronic device for navigation or hands-free communication is still permissible.

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