After five years of holding out,
finally has a law banning texting for motorists.
created a new statute (316.305) to define and describe how wireless
devices may be used while driving and cites itself to be the
"Florida ban on texting while driving law."
While something is better than nothing, the law signed by Gov.
Rick Scott on May 28 leaves much to be desired.
The actual law prohibits manual texting while driving, which is
described as entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other
characters into a wireless communications device. So it's
no-no to text, email, or instant messages while you're
But what is driving?
The law notes "a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being
operated" and isn't subject to the ban. This allows for
drivers stopped at traffic lights or stuck in traffic to carry on
texting. So don't expect the driver in front of you to be
ready to go when the light turns green if they're in the middle of
There are also exceptions to the ban, such as you can continue
to use your mobile device while driving if it's related to the
operation of the vehicle or navigation purposes (feel free to check
your GPS), you're obtaining safety-related information (emergency,
traffic or weather alerts) or receiving in radio broadcasts via the
device. Also, you can conduct interpersonal communication as
long as it doesn't require you to manually use your device as you
drive down the road.
There are other loopholes that give Florida drivers more leeway
than in other states.
For example, texting while driving is a secondary offense.
To be cited a driver would have to be pulled over for a primary
offense, such as speeding or careless driving. In other
states, where the offense is primary, officers atop
or in unmarked cars write up motorists for texting alone.
Also, a first texting ticket is considered a noncriminal traffic
infraction, punishable as a non-moving violation, and comes with
$30 fine (plus court costs).
It's the second or subsequent violation that really will affect
Florida drivers. Getting a second texting ticket will make it
a moving violation and worth three points on your driving
record. The fine is still mild at just $60 (plus court
If the texting ticket makes it on the Florida driver's record as
a moving violation, then their car insurance rates can be
affected. So a first-time, non-moving ticket wouldn't affect
drivers much, while a second ticket may get their attention since
their auto insurer could now see the offense and rate on it as it
would other moving violations, such as speeding. (See "
How car insurance is affected by tickets and
) And rate hikes with insurers typically last at least three
The points system of the state was also updated to include two
points to be assigned if a texting ticket is given in a school
safety zone and for six points will be assessed if it's found that
the unlawful use of a wireless communications device results in a
car crash. That may be hard to prove, however, since this new
law specifically states a driver's phone records can be used as
evidence only if a crash results in a death or injury.
At the signing of the law, Gov. Scott pointed out that "the 100
days between Memorial Day and Labor Day are known as the deadliest
days on the road for teenagers. We must do everything we can at the
state level to keep our teenagers and everyone on our roads
Too bad the texting law doesn't go into effect until Oct. 1.