Florida's Texting While Driving Law: How to Avoid a Ticket

Florida residents and visitors must be aware of driving laws in Florida to avoid tickets and ensure safety on the road. The state’s texting while driving and hands-free driving laws are just as important to follow as the speed limit and the Move Over law.

This guide will answer the following questions:

  • What are the current texting while driving laws in Florida?
  • What are the penalties for texting while driving in Florida?
  • Are there exceptions to the texting while driving law in Florida?
  • Why is distracted driving dangerous?
  • What can I do if I get a ticket for texting and driving in Florida?

Breaking Florida driving laws related to phone use can result in a ticket and points on your license. Read this guide to learn how to use your phone safely and legally behind the wheel.

What Are the Current Texting While Driving Laws in Florida?

The Florida Wireless Communications While Driving Law defines texting while driving and explains the penalties that a violator may receive.

Drivers in Florida can be pulled over for:

  • Texting on a wireless communications device while driving
  • Using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner in a work or school zone

However, certain exceptions to the law exist. For example, you can text while stopped at a red light or use a device for navigation while driving.

According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), texting and driving means operating a motor vehicle while "manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email and instant message."

The FLHSMV states that a wireless communications device can be a cellphone, tablet, two-way messaging device or an electronic game you can use in a handheld manner.

Since Florida Statutes Section 316.305 went into effect on July 1, 2019, law enforcement is permitted to pull over and issue citations to motorists who operate a vehicle while texting.

The next phase of the law, Section 316.306, took effect on October 1, 2019. This phase permitted law enforcement to pull over and issue warnings to drivers who were observed holding a wireless device in a designated school zone, school crossing or active work zone.

On January 1, 2020, Section 316.306 was updated to end the grace period for hands-free driving law offenses. Now, law enforcement can pull over and issue tickets to motorists who use their devices in a handheld manner while driving through school or work zones. This includes making phone calls while holding your phone in your hand.

What Are the Penalties for Texting While Driving in Florida?

The FLHSMV outlines the penalties for violating the state’s texting and driving law in Florida Statutes Section 316.305.

First Offense

Motorists will receive a non-moving traffic violation with no points against their driver license. The ticket comes with a $30 fine and may include court costs and other fees.

Second Offense

Motorists who break the law again within five years of the first offense will receive a moving traffic violation and three points against their driver license. They will receive a base fine of $60 and may face court costs and other fees.

What Are the Penalties for Breaking the Hands-Free Driving Law?

For any offense where motorists violate the hands-free driving law in a school or work zone, drivers will receive a moving traffic violation and three points against their license. In addition, they will receive a base $60 fine and may be responsible for court costs and other fees.

Are There Exceptions to the Texting While Driving Law in Florida?

Drivers in Florida are granted a few exceptions to the texting while driving law and the hands-free driving law. Neither law applies when the motor vehicle is stopped. In addition, motorists who are operating an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode are exempt from both laws.

Texting While Driving Exceptions

According to Section 316.306, motorists are exempt from the texting while driving law if they are:

  • "Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle (law enforcement, fire service or emergency medical services professional)"
  • "Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities"
  • "Receiving messages that are: related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle; safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts; data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or radio broadcasts"
  • "Using a device or system for navigation purposes"
  • "Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function"
  • "Conducting wireless communication that does not require reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function"
  • "Operating an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode"

Hands-Free Driving Exceptions

The hands-free diving law is only enforced in active school or work zones. An active work zone is where construction personnel are on the work site or where operating equipment is on the road or adjacent to the work site.

Motorists are exempt from the hands-free driving law when they are:

  • "Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle (law enforcement, fire service or emergency medical services professional)."
  • "Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities"
  • "Receiving messages that are: related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle; safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts; data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or radio broadcasts"
  • "Using a device or system in a hands-free manner for navigation purposes"
  • "Using a wireless communications device hands-free or hands-free in voice-operated mode, including, but not limited to, a factory-installed or after-market Bluetooth device"
  • "Operating an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode"

While these exceptions to the laws exist, you should avoid using your phone while driving. It’s always important to focus on the road in order to prevent distracted driving accidents.

Why Is Distracted Driving Dangerous?

Anytime you focus on something else while operating a motor vehicle, you are engaging in distracted driving. If you look at something else, touch anything else or think of anything else, you are not focused on the road. You are distracted.

Texting while driving is especially dangerous because it involves all three categories of driver distractions: visual, manual and cognitive. However, distracted driving is more than just texting and driving. Using your GPS, talking with passengers, adjusting the radio, eating and many other activities can all be distractions.

Distracted driving can be incredibly dangerous because it may prevent you from reacting in time in the event of an emergency. In order to stop in time to avoid an accident, you must see the hazard, realize you need to stop, perceive the distance and react accordingly.

If you are driving 50 mph while completely focused, it will still take nearly 100 yards (about the length of a football field) to come to a complete, safe stop. If you are engaged in distracted driving, you may not have enough time to appropriately react. This puts you and other drivers on the road at risk for an accident. Some accidents can be fatal, which is why distracted driving is incredibly dangerous.

What Can I Do If I Get a Ticket for Texting While Driving in Florida?

If you were issued a moving violation for texting and driving in Florida, you can avoid getting points on your license and reduce your fine by 9 percent by completing our online 4-Hour Basic Driver Improvement course.

In addition, our FLHSMV-approved course prevents your insurance provider from canceling your policy or increasing your rate (unless you were involved in an at-fault accident). Even if you aren’t a Florida resident, you can benefit from our online traffic school course!

Sources

Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. (n.d.). Put It Down: Focus On Driving. Retrieved from https://www.flhsmv.gov/safety-center/driving-safety/distracted-driving/

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