Florida’s new texting-and-driving law, in effect July 1st, broadens the circumstances under which police can initiate a traffic stop for texting drivers and increases the penalty for a violation.
If it’s well-enforced, it may also help in the goal of reducing Florida bicycle accident and pedestrian accident fatalities, which our Broward wrongful death attorneys have long known to be a serious problem.
Why Is Distracted Driving Such a Big Problem These Days?
The driving factor in the uptick of distracted motorist deaths is undeniably: Cellphones. The lure of constant connectivity has proven quite powerful, and many are still under the mistaken assumption people have the ability to multi-task (they don’t, not with high-level functions like reading, writing and driving).
Technically though, distraction can be anything that takes a driver’s full attention from the road. Examples include:
- Turning to scold a child in the backseat
- Personal grooming
- Talking on a cell phone
- Having an unsecured pet in the car
- Adjusting music or other in-stereo dials
Still, Florida lawmakers shied away from expressly naming any of these in the new statute. As our Broward injury lawyers can explain, individuals who engage in these behaviors may or may not be cited for a traffic infraction if they cause a crash. From a civil case standpoint though, any of these could represent a breach of a driver’s duty of care, the foundation for establishing negligence compelling compensation.
The biggest change that will come from Florida’s new distracted driving law will be to bump it from a secondary to a primary offense. That means an officer’s observation or reasonable suspicion that a driver is texting behind the wheel will be cause enough in its own right to prompt a traffic stop. Previously, police had to have another reason to initiate a traffic stop before they could also issue a citation for texting/driving.
Fines under the new law will still be $30 for a first-time offense, $60 for a second offense, etc. Additional fines are added when offenses take place in certain areas, like school zones.