New Law Bans Texting While Driving In Florida

On Tuesday, October 1, 2013, a new law went into effect in Florida which bans texting while driving in Florida. Florida Statute §316.305, entitled wireless communications devices; prohibition or more commonly referred to as "Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law" was signed into law in early 2013 by Governor Rick Scott which makes Florida the 41st state to ban texting or emailing while driving.

The new law is designed to improve safety for all motorists, prevent car accidents and reduce personal injuries and death stemming from car accidents caused by texting while driving. Although the new law is a very good start, it is somewhat lacking in teeth as the law states that police officers cannot stop a driver for just texting or emailing because violations of this statute are only enforceable as a secondary offense. Thus, if a driver is speeding or not wearing a seatbelt and they are stopped by law enforcement officers, they can also be ticketed for texting or emailing while driving. The same driver could not be stopped if a law enforcement officer noticed the driver was texting or emailing absent some other offense.

While the new law is a critical first step in making Florida roads safer for all motorists, the new law does not prohibit or in any way restrict drivers from receiving messages that are: related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle; safety-related information, including emergency, traffic or weather alerts; data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or radio broadcasts. The new law also does not apply to listening to music on a smart phone or other hand-held device or using the same device for navigation purposes.

The new law also does not prohibit a driver from conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols except to activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function of the device. Likewise, the new law does not prohibit a driver from conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require reading text messages except to activate, deactivate or initiate a feature or function of the device. Thus, it would seem that voice-activated texting or emailing would not be prohibited from the new law such as using IPhone's Siri. Additionally, the new law does not prohibit texting or emailing while a driver is stopped at a red light or stop sign or is otherwise "stationary."

Lastly, in the event of a car accident resulting in death or personal injury, a user's billing records for a wireless communications device or the testimony of or a written statement from appropriate authorities receiving such messages may be admissible as evidence in any proceeding to determine whether a violation of the statute has been committed.