New Bill to Make Texting and Driving a Primary Offense

Jan 18, 2016 | By: Julie Luhrsen

Technically, no one is allowed to text and drive in Florida. But we also can’t be pulled over specifically for texting and driving. So what does that mean for Florida drivers?

On October 1, 2013, the Florida government enacted the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law under statute 316.305. This statute prohibits anyone driving a motor vehicle from using their phone to type letters, symbols, numbers, or other characters. In simpler words – Floridians can’t text while driving.

But it couldn’t just be that simple, could it? In order to cite drivers for this offense, they have to first be pulled over on suspicion of another traffic offense, making texting while driving a secondary offense as opposed to a primary one. So if a law enforcement officer sees someone texting and driving, he can’t pull them over solely for doing so. However, if they are texting and driving while also speeding, running a red light, not stopping at a stop sign, or a similar offense, they can be pulled over for that and then subsequently receive a citation for texting and driving.

Anyone found in violation of this Florida law commits a noncriminal or civil traffic infraction, which is punishable like a nonmoving violation. If someone is caught doing it a second time, it’s still a noncriminal infraction but this time it will be punished as a moving violation. In addition, they can also get points on their license.

  • First offense: no points on license
  • School safety zone: If a school zone, 2 points will be added to the primary offense.
  • Second offense: 3 points on license
  • Collision: If the texting caused a crash, 6 points will be put on license.

The purpose of this law is to make sure that all roads are safe for anyone using them, prevent crashes, and reduce injuries, deaths, property damage, and insurance rates.

But, again, since it’s not a primary offense, officers can’t pull people over only for texting and driving.

Senate Bill 328 hopes to change that. The bill was first filed in September 2015, and was officially introduced to the senate this past week on January 12, 2016. The bill hopes to revise the original law passed in 2013 to make texting while driving a primary offense beginning on October 1, 2016.

When the law was first passed, many legislators claimed that making texting and driving a primary offense would infringe on their liberties, but those arguments have largely disappeared. Most people and legislators now realize that people’s lives are more important than being able to text while driving.

It makes sense, because the statistics on texting while driving aren’t good. Yearly, about 1.6 million traffic accidents in the United States are caused by someone texting while driving. Those accidents have resulted in over 330,000 injuries. In fact, a report has concluded that texting while driving – not driving under the influence of alcohol – is the leading cause of death among teens. With numbers like that, Senate Bill 328 is an important piece of legislation aimed to punish offenders while also making the roadways safer.

If you or someone you love has been injured in an accident where the driver was texting and driving, contact an experienced personal injury lawyer to be your advocate and fight for your rights.