A bill that would make texting while driving a primary offense in Florida has passed in both the House and Senate, and now heads for the governor’s desk. As Crestview personal injury lawyers, we have seen first-hand the dangers of distracted driving. Families of crash victims have long-supported tougher laws for those who engage in the reckless behavior of texting behind the wheel and are applauding the new legislation.
In passing the bill, “HB 107,” Florida joins at least 43 other states in making texting while driving a primary offense, meaning that law enforcement officers will be able to pull over motorists for texting while driving. Under current law, drivers can only be cited for texting if they are pulled over for another offense. That is, the officer has to actually witness a driver breaking another law to be able to write a ticket for texting and driving. Florida, along with three other states (Nebraska, Ohio, and South Dakota) are currently the only states that treat texting and driving as a secondary offense.
The Florida House passed the bill with a vote of 108-7. The Senate amended the bill to make school zones and active work zones hands-free areas, and then passed it with a vote of 33-5. Having publicly supported efforts to make texting while driving a primary traffic offense, Governor DeSantis is expected to sign the bill into law. Stay tuned.
How the New Law Will Be Enforced
The bill defines texting as “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 nonvoice interpersonal communication.” Notably, the law enforcement officer who stops the vehicle for a violation must inform the driver of his or her right to decline a search of the wireless device, and the officer may not access the device without a warrant, unless “voluntary and unequivocal” consent is obtained from the driver.
The new law is set to take effect July 1. The hands-free provision relating to school zones and construction areas would not carry fines until January 1, 2020. Between October 1, 2019 and December 31, 2019, only a warning will be given.
Your Rights as the Victim of a Texting-While-Driving Accident
Individuals injured in texting-while-driving accidents in Florida can still seek compensation for their losses. Drivers who cause accidents while texting are clearly negligent, regardless of whether the law says it is a primary or secondary offense. Moreover, auto insurance covers distracted driving accidents; and, although Florida is a “no-fault” insurance state, accident victims with severe and permanent injuries can still seek compensation outside of their personal injury protection (PIP) policies.
Let Crestview Personal Injury Lawyers Assist You
If you or your loved one has been injured in a distracted driving accident, or you have questions concerning Florida’s texting while driving law, we welcome you to contact us, either by email or phone (850) 682-2757, for a free, no-obligation consultation.