561.671.5995 | 954.272.6187 | www.matthewkoneckypa.com 110 SE 6th Street, Suite 1700, Fort Lauderdale, FL 33301 4440 PGA Blvd., Suite 204 Palm Beach Gardens, FL 33410 You Can Now Be Fined for Texting While Driving & Other Consequences of Distracted Driving
O n Jan. 1, 2020, several new laws went into full effect in Florida. One of those laws is the “texting while driving” law. The law itself dates back to Jan. 1, 2019, but law enforcement agencies (and by extension, motorists) were given a grace period of one year. During 2019, law enforcement officers could only issue a warning to motorists. Now, that’s changed.
As a result, other citations or charges can unfold, especially if you have contraband present in your vehicle. A few decades ago, before seatbelt laws, you could drive without a seatbelt and you wouldn’t get pulled over. When seatbelt laws were introduced, more people started getting pulled over, which led to arrests for things that had nothing to do with seatbelts. The same thing will happen with the new texting law.
Texting while driving is now a primary offense. Officers can stop motorists on the suspicion of texting while driving
Overall, I think a texting while driving law is good to have on the books. Statistics have shown that texting while driving is dangerous and
and issue a citation. Florida law now also bans “handheld wireless communication devices” in school crossings, school zones, and construction zones. Hands-free devices, such as in-car Bluetooth, can still be used legally.
distracted driving can be more lethal than drunk driving. When people are inebriated, it impacts their ability to focus on driving, slowing their reaction time, blurring their vision, and negatively influencing their ability to make quick decisions.
The first texting while driving offense is punishable with a $30 fine (plus any applicable court fees). The second offense comes with a $60 fine, court fees, and other possible costs — on top of three points on your driver’s license. For those cited in a school or construction zone, they will see additional points added to their driver’s license. First-time offenders can avoid fines, however. According to the law, after citation, they may buy a hands-free Bluetooth device (such as an earpiece). They then must show proof of purchase of the device and complete a driver safety education course through the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. After that, they may be off the hook for any fines or points. This, of course, is how the law looks on paper. In reality, it can be very different for drivers. The fine may be a civil citation, but it can have criminal implications, and it’s one more law that allows a police officer to initiate a stop. If you are driving and looking at your phone, you are inviting an officer to pull you over.
Distracted driving works in a similar way. If your attention isn’t on the road and your surroundings, you can’t react. When you’re looking down instead of out, you can’t make quick adjustments or decisions, and this can, and often does, lead to fender benders and wrecks — sometimes fatal ones. Texting while driving comes with other consequences as well. If you pursue a personal injury case following a car accident, for example, you may be asked for a record of your calls and texts. If you were on your phone when the accident occurred, you could be found at fault, even if the call or text didn’t have anything to do with the accident. It comes down to this: Don’t text while driving. The consequences are never worth it. It’s not worth the fine, wreck, or extra attention to you and your vehicle regardless of your reason for texting. Stay safe and keep your eyes on the road!
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