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What Are Florida’s Distracted Driving Laws?

March 8, 2024 Legal Team
A Bearded Man Using His Smartphone in a Car with caption: Florida's Distracted Driving Laws

Distracted driving remains a major cause of car accidents and a growing problem in Florida and elsewhere. Despite updated distracted driving laws, 53,596 distracted driving accidents occurred in Florida in 2022 with 268 fatal injuries. An estimated 1,116 distracted driving accidents occur in Florida each week. When traveling at 55 miles per hour, taking your eyes off the road for the average 5 seconds it takes to read a text message is like driving blind for the length of a football field.

Florida is attempting to minimize the dangers of distracted driving by making it a primary offense—meaning law enforcement officers may pull drivers over for suspected distracted driving without requiring another offense like speeding.

What Is Distracted Driving In Florida?

Cell phone use remains the most common cause of distracted driving accidents. Texting, scrolling through social media, selecting a playlist or podcast, using the phone GPS, answering emails, or making calls, all involve taking the eyes and at least one hand off the road. Even hands-free technology may cause a significant distraction. Other forms of distracted driving have been around for much longer than cell phones and include:

  • Eating and drinking behind the wheel
  • Grooming in the rear-view mirror
  • Adjusting a sound system
  • Searching for dropped items
  • Interacting or admonishing children in the back seat
  • Daydreaming and driving on autopilot

All forms of distracted driving are risky but using a cell phone is arguably the most dangerous distracted driving behavior because it requires at least one hand and takes the eyes and attention off the road and away from the task of driving.

Distracted Driving Laws in Florida

Beginning in 2019, Florida enacted a new law signed into place by Governor Ron DeSantis. The Wireless Communications While Driving Law changed distracted driving from a secondary offense to a primary offense in Florida. This change means that a police officer who suspects a driver is texting or using other hands-on cell phone technology may pull the driver over and issue a citation. Previously, distracted driving was a secondary offense. Officers could only issue a citation after pulling over a driver for speeding or another traffic infraction.

Under the new law, drivers may use phones in most areas for emergency calls or to use the GPS for directions; however, drivers may not use hand-held phones at all in school zones or work zones.  Phone calls are prohibited in these areas including with hands-free dialing. Hands-free or voice-activated dialing and texting are only legal in Florida when the driver is stopped at a red light.

What Are the Penalties for Distracted Driving in Florida?

A first offense in Florida for texting and driving results in a $30 fine plus court fees or $60 for texting in a school zone plus three points against the driver’s license. If a driver receives a second citation in a non-school zone, the fine rises from $30 to $60, plus court fees and three points against the driver’s license.

If a driver texts while driving and causes an accident, it’s a primary offense with six license points. If the accident causes severe injuries or death, the driver may face a lawsuit for damages to the victim or the victim’s family. Contact our Sarasota car accident lawyers and Bradenton car accident attorneys at Shapiro | Delgado | Hofmann if you were injured due to another driver’s negligence.