What Is Florida’s Cell Phone Law?
Florida’s cell phone law is officially known as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law.” However, the law does not only apply to texting, and it doesn’t actually ban texting behind the wheel in all cases. As a driver in Florida, it is important to understand what the law prohibits not only so that you can comply, but also so that you can use the law to your advantage if you get hurt in a car accident caused by a distracted driver.
The attorneys at Colling Gilbert Wright have extensive experience helping clients in Orlando and other Florida areas after an accident involving a distracted driver. If you were hurt in a wreck, we encourage you to contact our office right away. The sooner you call, the better your chances of recovering the full compensation to which you may be entitled under the law.
Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law: An Overview
Florida’s cell phone law appears in Section 316.305 of the Florida Statutes. It took effect on July 1, 2019. Broadly speaking, the law prohibits handheld cell phone use for texting and other forms of communication, although the law does not make it illegal to make a handheld cell phone call behind the wheel. The key language of the law states:
“A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, emailing, and instant messaging.”
As you can see, the law specifically includes texting, emailing, and instant messaging, and it specifically excludes voice communication (i.e., calling). Thus, even though the law’s official title is the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law,” it prohibits drivers from engaging in other forms of nonvoice communication as well.
But, while Section 316.305 of the Florida Statutes prohibits drivers from engaging in text-based communication generally, the law contains several exceptions. For example, it is not against the law for drivers to send texts, e-mails, or instant messages for purposes of:
- Performing official law enforcement or emergency response duties;
- Reporting an emergency to law enforcement authorities; or,
- Reporting criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
So, the police, firefighters, and EMTs can text behind the wheel when warranted, and other drivers can text law enforcement when necessary. The law also makes clear that the following do not constitute unlawful cell phone use behind the wheel:
- Using a handheld device for navigation purposes;
- Using a vehicle’s onboard navigation or autonomous driving features; and,
- Voice texting.
For first-time offenders, violations of Florida’s cell phone law carry a $30 fine plus court costs and fees. A first offense under the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law does not carry any driver’s license points. Repeat offenders face a $60 fine, court costs and fees, and three points assessed against their driver’s license.
Despite Florida’s Cell Phone Law, Distracted Driving Accidents Remain Common
Despite the fact that Florida law prohibits texting, emailing, and sending instant messages while driving in most circumstances, distracted driving accidents remain common. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), there were 350 distracted driving fatalities in the state in 2021. The FLHSMV also recorded 2,726 distracted driving accidents resulting in “serious bodily injuries” in 2021, and a total of 56,594 crashes in which distracted driving was a factor.
In fact, even though Florida enacted its cell phone law in 2019, distracted driving fatalities have been on the rise over the past few years. According to the FLHSMV, there were just 235 distracted driving fatalities in 2018, and the number of fatal accidents has increased to a new record high in each subsequent year.
What Are Your Legal Rights After a Cell Phone Accident in Florida?
While Florida only prohibits certain forms of handheld cell phone use while driving, all forms of cell phone use are dangerous distractions. If you got hit by someone who was distracted behind the wheel, you have clear legal rights—and this is true regardless of whether the driver was violating Florida’s cell phone law.
Distracted driving is negligent driving, and negligent drivers can be held accountable when they cause car accidents resulting in significant and permanent injuries. While proving that a driver was violating Florida’s cell phone law can help with establishing your right to just compensation, you can—and should—hire a lawyer to file a claim regardless of the specific type of distraction that led to your crash.
Were you seriously injured in a car accident involving a distracted driver in Florida? If so, the Orlando car accident lawyers at Colling Gilbert Wright can help.