On April 16, the Florida Senate passed Senate Bill 52 that would ban texting while driving. If passed by the Florida House of Representatives by May 3, it’s likely to take effect in October.
Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, has sponsored the bill for years. She told the Tampa Bay Times in an article that came out the day it passed that texting and driving “needs to stop, this is the year.”
The bill would make texting while driving a secondary violation, meaning a citation for texting would be issued after someone is pulled over for another traffic violation. The first violation would be a fine of $30 plus court costs, varying by county. Another violation within five years would be a $60 fine plus court costs, 3 points off the driver’s license, and 2 more if the violation occurs in a school safety zone.
Language in the bill makes exceptions if the device is being used for certain purposes such as emergency workers performing official duties, reporting emergencies or suspicious activities, navigation information, emergency traffic data, radio broadcasts and autonomous vehicles. It also makes an exception for interpersonal communication without manually typing or reading the message.
Florida is one of the last states to have no ban on all drivers text messaging. Thirty-nine states, the District of Columbia, and Guam ban text messaging for all drivers, according to Distraction.gov – Official US Government Website for Distracted Driving. Twelve of these laws were enacted in 2010 alone. Ten states, D.C. and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
The U.S. Department of Transportation created Distraction.gov to raise awareness. In 2010, 3092 people were killed and 416,000 were injured in crashes involving a distracted driver. “Every single time you take your eyes of the road or talk on the phone while you’re driving – even for just a few seconds – you put yourself and others in danger,” a message from Ray Lahood, Secretary of Transportation, reads.
Though Florida doesn’t have an anti-texting law, existing laws apply more generally to distracted drivers who drive carelessly, meaning unlike an otherwise reasonable person would, or recklessly with disregard for the safety of others. If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident caused by another reckless or careless driver, please contact us to find out more about your legal rights.