Texting While Driving is Now a Primary Offense

Distracted driving has become an issue for many drivers these days. The technology meant to enhance our lives and make them easier is now the major culprit for distracted driving. The use of cell phones while operating a vehicle has been a gray area for quite some time, but the dangers have always been there. As a state, we have slowly transitioned into legal action against this very serious problem. As of this year, we are in the final phase of implementing the law against texting and driving.

What Was the Law Last Year?

Texting and driving has actually been illegal in Florida for years. In 2017, Representative Jackie Toledo introduced House Bill 107 on behalf of a Riverview family that lost their nine-year old son in a car accident. The family’s SUV was in stand-still traffic on I-75 when a driver hit the back of the vehicle. The driver was speeding at 90 miles an hour and did not notice the stopped traffic because he was texting on his cell phone. The impact at such a high speed cost this family the life of their young son.

Last year, texting was considered a secondary offense, meaning you would only receive a warning or citation for it. Additionally, an officer could not pull you over only for this violation. You would have to be doing something else first like speeding or running a red light. If you were pulled over for something of this nature initially, then the officer could also add texting while driving as an additional offense. However, since distracted driving with cell phones has become such a danger, many states have made this a primary offense. Florida was one of four states to still view it as a secondary offense until it was put into motion last year to make it a primary offense beginning with the New Year of 2020. In July 2019, we saw a transitionary period begin with the Wireless Communications While Driving Law. To ease drivers into the change, the government established a grace period between July 2019 and the end of December 2019. During this grace period, you would only receive a warning if pulled over for texting and driving.

What Changes Have Been Made to the Law This Year?

As of January 1, 2020, texting while driving is now considered a primary offense in the state of Florida. This means an officer has the right to pull you over if he or she witnesses you texting while driving. There no longer has to be another initial violation witnessed before tacking on the illegal cell phone usage. Also, officers can now issue tickets for texting while driving. The first offense results in $30 plus court fees, and the second offense increases to $60 plus court fees and three points added to the driver’s record. Specifically, schools zones and active work zones are viewed as hands-free zones where you are not even allowed to have a phone in your hand while operating a vehicle in these areas.

When Am I Allowed to Use My Phone in the Car?

There are a few exceptions when it comes to cell phone usage while driving. You are allowed to text in your vehicle when stopped at a red light. Also, it has been noted that emergency situations will arise in life, so grace for those situations will be taken into consideration in a case-by-case scenario.

Is Texting While Driving Really That Dangerous?

Yes, it is one of the worst forms of distracted driving. Distracted driving can be broken down into three categories: visual, manual, and cognitive. A visual distraction is anything that takes your eyes off the road, while manual distraction is anything that takes your hands off the wheel of the car. Cognitive distraction is anything that distracts the driver from thinking about the drive at hand. If you have ever driven somewhere out of habit and you arrived there only to realize you do not actually remember the process of the drive, then you were cognitively distracted. Texting while driving is a serious danger because it employs all three types of distraction at once. You are looking at the phone (visual) while typing a response (manual) and thinking about the text conversation (cognitive) instead of the drive. Being distracted not only affects what your brain is focusing on, but it also affects your ability to react. The rate at which you react to something is directly influenced by how much distraction you are dealing with at that given time. Do yourself a favor, and put the phone down while you drive. The immediate pressure you feel to respond to a text is a learned behavior that can just as easily be unlearned if we really try. Rid yourself of this habit now before it becomes a legal consequence later.

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