Cell phones have become commonplace in the last ten to fifteen years. With increased usage, distracted driving has become a prevalent problem. As most Florida motorists know by now (hopefully), texting while driving became a moving violation, effective July 1, 2019.
The Florida House voted overwhelmingly in favor of HB 107 that makes texting while driving a primary offense. The provisions of HB 107 took effect on July 1, 2019, and the provisions related to the prohibition on the handheld use of a wireless communications device in work and school zones took effect on October 1, 2019.
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. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications. For the purposes of this paragraph, a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition in this paragraph.
Texting while driving is now a moving violation or primary offense, which means a law enforcement officer may stop motor vehicles and issue citations to persons who are texting while driving. The difference? When this infraction was a secondary offense, law enforcement could not stop and issue a citation to motorists who were texting but not committing any other driving offense.
Considerable research indicates that distracted driving is the leading cause of Florida car accidents. Although distractions while driving, whether dealing with children or putting on makeup, have always existed. In 2019, texting while driving is now causing more fatalities than DUIs.
The most recent data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) shows that over 3,000 motorists were killed in 2017 in collisions involving distraction. Some estimate that one-third of all motor vehicle accidents involve driver distraction, resulting in more than 10,000 deaths on the road annually.
Detecting this crime certainly is not as easy as observing a car traveling at an excessive, speed or running a red light. Since it is not easy to determine whether a driver is using a phone for a permitted use such as dialing or for a prohibited use, distracted driving laws are difficult to enforce.
More than half of all states have already passed measures to prohibit drivers from using a handheld device at the wheel for any reason except an emergency. According to data from the Governors Highway Safety Association, 48 states, D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands ban text messaging for all drivers. All but 3 of these states and territories make it a primary offense. Florida was the 45th state to make text messaging while driving a primary offense.
Distracted driving is one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents. All of us are susceptible to the potential danger caused by an inattentive, preoccupied – distracted – driver. If you or a loved one have been involved in any type of motor vehicle accident contact the attorneys at Heintz & Becker. We’ve helped accident victims from Bradenton, Sarasota, and all over Florida receive compensation for their damages. Clients pay no fees or costs unless we, and they, get results. Call us for a free consultation now at 941-748-2916 or contact us online. Our website is available in English and Spanish!