A 2009 motor vehicle accident statistics report by the Florida Department of Transportation showed that 5,474 people were killed in motor vehicle accidents due to texting while driving, and another 448,000 were injured. In response to these statistics like these, Florida state officials signed anew texting while driving ban into legislation, which took effect in October 2013. This ban isn’t surprising, being that every state in the nation, besides Arizona, Montana and South Carolina have illegalized texting while driving. But, unlike many states, such as California, Florida’s laws aren’t nearly as tough.
How the New Texting While Driving Ban Works
When You Can Be Pulled Over
The new law only partially bans driver cell phone use. Under the new law, drivers are allowed to check maps on their cell phones, use voice commands, read texts that contain addresses, text and email while at a stopped light or while stopped in traffic, and talk on their cell phones without restrictions. Texting and emailing while driving, however, is not allowed.
Even though texting or emailing while driving is not allowed, doing so isn’t necessary enough to allow an officer to pull a person over. Drivers can only be pulled over for breaking the new ban as a secondary offense. What this means is that the person has to be breaking another driving law – such as speeding – before they can be pulled over for texting while driving.
The Punishment The fine for texting while driving is pretty minor. For a first offense, the result is a $30 fine plus court fees and for a second offense, the fine goes up to $60 plus court fees.
If a driver gets into an auto accident while texting and driving, and a death or serious injury results, an officer can legally confiscate his or her phone. Law enforcement and court officials can then look at the confiscated phone for evidence that the driver was texting or emailing at the time of the accident. If it is found that the driver was indeed texting or emailing at the time of the auto accident, the courts will likely find them guilty and liable for causing the accident.
How Enforceable Is This New Ban?
Between all of the allowed uses of a cell phone while driving and the secondary offense rule, police officers and the courts may have some trouble enforcing the new law. First, police are going to have to prove that they did pull the driver over as a secondary offense. If it is found that the driver was not breaking another driving law when pulled over for texting while driving, then the case is not valid and should be thrown out of court. In addition, the officer will also need to prove that the driver was illegally texting (for example, talking to a friend) as opposed to legally texting (for example, checking directions or looking at an address). If no accident resulting in death or serious injury results, the police cannot legally confiscate the phone and use it as evidence. Without evidence, the officer cannot prove the texting activity was illegal.