The Complete Guide to Florida’s SB 79: Texting while Driving
The rules of the road are changing, and we've got everything you need to know about operating your phone while driving in Florida. The recently-filed law, SB 79, makes clear the state's intention to curb the increasingly-dangerous behavior of operating a phone behind the wheel. When the state Senate convenes next year, here's how things are likely to change:
What are the punishments?
The fine for texting and driving charges is currently around $20. Not that expensive, but it does come with points on your license. Texting while driving is also considered a secondary offense, meaning a state patrol or police officer cannot pull you over exclusively for texting. Speeding, expired plates, running red lights, or careless driving charges are likely to be paired with it.
This is one important area that SB 79 comes down hard. Texting while driving will no longer be a secondary offense. That means that if you're seen driving with your phone out, police will now be able to pull you over. Points on your license can accrue very quickly for additional infractions, especially with how frequently we use our phones in our daily lives. The law is deliberately written with very broad language. If you are using your phone for any reason other than the ones listed below, you are likely to be pulled over!
What are the exceptions?
SB 79 does include exceptions when using your phone is acceptable. You should not be given a ticket if you are:
- Reporting an emergency, criminal, or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
- Receiving messages that are:
- Related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle (such as receiving directions);
- Safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts;
- Data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or
- Radio broadcasts.
The law also makes exceptions for any driver using their car in autonomous mode, meaning that any self-driving car will allow you to use your phone even if you're in the driver's seat.
Will my data be monitored?
One section in the law outlines the circumstances in which your billing records for your wireless device can be used as evidence: "only in the event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury." When you're pulled over or in an accident, it's important to know your rights. If you feel like you've been wrongly charged and/or want to fight your ticket, contact us for a free consultation today.
What does this mean for me?
Driving with a phone in your hand is dangerous and should only be done when absolutely necessary and within the exceptions outlined here or in future laws. The lives of hundreds are claimed every year just because drivers aren't paying close attention. They struggle to focus on their phones and the road and put innocent lives in danger.
This law, if passed, will take effect October 1, 2019. So stay prepared and drive safely.