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What is ‘Distracted Driving’ Under Florida Law?

If you have been involved in a an SUV or car accident in the Tampa Bay area call Tampa Personal Injury Attorney, Martin J. Hernandez at 813-755-9500
Woman texting and driving

While there are several forms of unfocused driving, probably the most common one is with cell phone use. According to Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), the definition of distracted driving is anything that “takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road or mind off driving”. Doing something that takes your attention while you are simultaneously driving can be extremely risky and puts others in danger. Some examples of distracted driving include:

  • eating
  • talking on the phone
  • texting
  • smoking or vaping
  • adjusting audio or temperature controls
  • searching for something in the vehicle

As of Jul 1, 2019, it is illegal to text while behind the wheel in Florida.

It’s also illegal to drive and use your cell phone for things like emailing or instant messaging. Specifically, under this Florida law, you cannot take part in any ‘nonvoice communications’ while driving.

This means doing anything that involves manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, or symbols on a wireless device. Law enforcement started issuing tickets for violating this rule on January 1, 2020.

If you have been hurt in a distracted driving accident, you are not alone. The attorneys at Fernandez & Hernandez have handled hundreds of injury cases with the knowledge that no two crashes are exactly the same.

Contact us at 813.755.9500 or visit us online for your one-on-one attorney consultation.

What Areas Have Bans On Phone Use?

As of October 1, 2019, it is also illegal to use a handheld device in a construction zone while workers are present, or in any school zone. You can only use your cell phone in these areas if you use hands-free technology.

Any violation of this zone-specific law is treated as a moving traffic violation. The penalty is a base $60 fine (not including court costs and other fees) plus three points against a driver’s license.

Are There Any Exceptions To This Law?

The safest way for you to avoid being distracted by your phone while driving is just not to use it as long as you are driving. Leaving your phone alone until you have reached your destination and turned off your engine is a safe habit that we would recommend. The alternative that many drivers use is to install a hands-free system, but even that can create safety issues.

However, Florida law does allow for some times when drivers can legally use their cell phones while they’re in the driver’s seat. For example, drivers in Florida can be on their phones if they are stopped at a stoplight or stuck in traffic.

The reasoning behind this is that a vehicle that is stationary is not being operated by the driver and therefore, not subject to Florida’s ban on distracted driving. This keyword ‘stationary’ shows that if you’re texting and the traffic starts moving, it’s illegal to finish the text.

The law also makes an exception for using GPS, Google maps, or other navigation apps. It also allows for any data to be read by the vehicle, such as radio broadcasts and safety-related information including weather and emergency alerts.

This law does not apply to law enforcement officers, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel.

Were you or a loved one hurt in a distracted driving accident? You may be entitled to compensation for the injuries you have suffered. Connect with us at 813.755.9500 or on our website 24/7 to discuss your free case consultation.

What are the Penalties for Getting Caught On My Phone While Driving?

Under Florida law, the first offense for distracted driving is considered a non-moving traffic violation. The penalty is a base $30 fine and no points are taken off the driver’s license.

Being ticketed for a second violation of this law within five years is a moving traffic violation with a base $60 fine (not including court costs and other fees). Three points are also put against the driver’s license.

Is Driving Distracted A Crime In Florida?

Cell phone use while driving is considered a noncriminal traffic violation in the State of Florida. But that makes it no less deadly, especially at high speed.

Engaging in activities that distract you from driving could affect your attention in a way that your brain might not be ready to handle. Specifically, there are three types of distractions that your brain faces when it comes to distracted driving: visual, manual, and cognitive.

Visual distractions involve taking your eyes off the road. An example of this would be checking a child’s seat belt or looking in a mirror.

Manual distractions would be something like:

  • searching through a bag,
  • brushing your hair,
  • applying makeup, or
  • eating lunch

while you are driving a vehicle at the same time.

Cognitive distractions simply mean you’re just not focused on the road. This might include being ‘lost in thought’ or trying to cope with a loss or other life challenge. Many distracted drivers experience a combination of all three.

The National Safety Council or NSC recently reported that cell phones contribute to about 6% of all crashes. The NSC also found that 80% of traffic accidents are related to driver inattention.

The best way to avoid being a statistic is to avoid the risk altogether. Do not text and drive or talk on your cell phone while driving. Unfortunately, there really is no safe way to use a cell phone and drive, so the best plan is to resist the urge to pick it up!

If you’re involved in a distracted driving accident, it’s important to seek medical attention and the advice of proven, trial-tested personal injury attorneys like those at Fernandez & Hernandez Attorneys At Law. You can reach them for advice 24/7 by calling 813.755.9500 or by visiting our website. Hablamos Español.

Call 813-755-9500 for a FREE consultation.

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