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Understanding Florida’s New Hands-Free Driving Law

Distracted Driving in Florida

Distracted driving is a leading cause of injury and death in the United States. In 2017, EverQuote Inc., an online insurance firm, collected data that ranked Florida as the second most dangerous state when it comes to distracted driving. This alarming statistic, unfortunately, makes sense: In 2016, distracted driving was responsible for approximately 50,000 motor vehicle collisions – about 5 crashes every hour. These accidents accounted for over 3,500 injuries and 233 fatalities.

Texting Bill Clears the House 108-7

Last April, state lawmakers enacted legislation to combat this devastating statistic by making texting while driving a primary offense in Florida. As of July 1, 2019, a driver can be pulled over and cited for using a wireless device while driving. However, lawmakers recognize that some people don’t keep up with the news, so officers are required to issue verbal warnings for any violations throughout the end of the year. In 2020, a driver can face costly fines and even license suspension if they’re caught texting too many times.

After the bill cleared the Senate in early April, Senator Wilton Simpson, R-Tilby declared, “Hands-free is where we should be. Many, many lives will be saved by the texting and driving bill; many more lives would be saved by a hands-free bill.”

Per the new legislation, the following tasks need to be avoided when operating a motor vehicle:

  • Using a smartphone or hand-held electronic device
  • Reading or writing
  • Performing personal grooming or applying makeup
  • Interacting with unsecured cargo or pets

The bill also includes a catch-all provision that warns drivers not to engage “in any other activity, conduct, task, or actions that causes a distraction.” Many senators are concerned that this subjective clause could lead to problems in the future.

Of course, there are exceptions to the new law. The following parties are exempt from the new policy:

  • Emergency personnel
  • People reporting criminal activity or an emergency
  • People receiving safety-related information, including traffic and weather alerts

Interestingly, texting at a stoplight or while a vehicle is stationary is not considered a punishable offense.

What Happens on October 1?

Starting October 1, 2019, drivers can only use wireless and hands-free devices when driving near school crossings, school zones, and active work zone areas. Any violators will face a $60 base fine (not including county and court costs), three points on their licenses, and insurance rate increases.

Going forward, drivers can be ticketed for using the following wireless communication devices near schools and construction zones:

  • Cell phones
  • Tablets
  • Laptops
  • Gaming devices

Have You Been Harmed by a Distracted Driver?

The personal injury lawyers at Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC are proud supporters of any legislation that works to save lives. Unfortunately, it’s not unusual to come across a driver who is willing to ignore state and federal traffic laws. If you or a loved one is ever injured by the actions of a negligent and distracted driver, contact our law firm as soon as possible. We can help you hold the at-fault party accountable for their actions and your financial losses.

Contact Lauri J. Goldstein & Associates, PLLC at (866) 675-4427 to arrange a free, no-risk consultation.