Car Accident Lawyer
How many times have you noticed another driver swerving in and out of lanes or having to slam on the brakes when approaching a red light? Many times these incidents are the result of a distracted driver who is looking at his cell phone while driving. People often feel pressure to respond to work-related messages while driving. Even worse, teen drivers are inherently susceptible to distracted driving, and it is the cause of almost 60% of crashes involving teen drivers.
As of April 2019, distracted driving was the main factor in almost 10% of fatal motor vehicle crashes. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports more than 3.000 motorists are killed each year in distracted driving collisions. In 2018 alone, 4,637 individuals lost their life due to distracted driving. Studies have shown that drivers who text and drive are almost 10 times more likely to be involved in a crash. Just a couple years ago, over 50,000 Florida crashes were attributed to distracted driving.
Florida Adds New Driving Laws
There are two new Florida laws that change the way drivers may use their cell phones while operating a motor vehicle. Florida’s ban on texting while driving went into effect on July 1, 2019. Meanwhile, a new law relating to the use of cell phones in school and work zones went into effect on October 1, 2019.
The ban on texting while driving is found at 316.305, Fla. Statutes. This new law allows a police officer to issue a citation to a distracted driver caught using their cell phone while behind the wheel. A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a cell phone or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods such as texting, emailing, and instant messaging.
Under this law, the first violation for drivers is a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a “nonmoving violation” with no points assessed to the driver’s record. The second violation within five years of the date of the prior conviction commits a non-criminal traffic infraction, punishable as a “moving violation.” There are a few exceptions to this new law, and it does not apply if the driver is stopped at a red light, reporting an emergency or criminal activity, or using the device for navigational purposes.
Florida Statute 316.306 is also new and aims at improving roadway safety in school and work zones. As of October 1, 2019, a person may not operate a motor vehicle while holding a cell phone when driving in a designated school crossing, school zone, or active work zone.
A police officer may stop a motor vehicle and issue a citation to an individual failing to obey this statute. Any person who violates this section commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation and will have 3 points assessed to his or her driver’s license unless the driver participates and completes a device driving safety program.
Note that this new law is only applicable to work zone areas if construction personnel are immediately present or are operating equipment on the road or immediately adjacent to the work zone area. This law also does not apply to certain situations, such as where the driver is reporting an emergency, receiving messages related to navigation, using the cell phone in the “hands-free” mode, or while stopped at a red light.
If you have been in an auto accident in Florida, you should always inform your attorney of any suspicion you have that the at-fault party was improperly using a cell phone at the time of the accident. An individual operating a motor vehicle on a Florida roadway is obligated to act as a reasonably prudent driver, which includes driving without distractions.
If you have any questions about an auto accident, call Jeff Murphy Law, an auto accident lawyer in Tampa, FL, for a free consultation.
Thank you to Jeff Murphy Law, for their input into legal settlements in Florida.