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New Rules of the Road

Law enforcement will begin to enforce Florida’s texting and driving law this month, so make sure you’re aware of all the details associated with it.

While you were celebrating the holidays and ringing in the New Year, the state legislature passed a few new laws that we should all become familiar with. The most talked about law being enforced in 2020 has to do with the prohibition on texting and driving. 

While this law protects against texting, it also bans the use of handheld mobile devices while driving in school and construction zones. It’s now a primary offense, meaning you can get pulled over and ticketed just for talking on your cell phone in an active school or construction zone or for texting while driving.  

Prior to the law taking effect, police could only pull over a motorist for committing a moving violation or other traffic offense. If the officer observed the motorist texting or using a mobile device while driving during that traffic stop then they could be cited for that as well as the primary offense. 

Here are some tips regarding this new law.  

Stopped means stopped. The law still allows the use of handheld mobile devices to text and talk when the vehicle is stationary. So you may still check your messages at red lights and when stopped in traffic, just please move when the light turns green and it’s your turn to go.

It’s not just your cell phone. The statute prohibits the use of “wireless communication devices” while driving. By definition, these devices include, but are not limited to, a cell phone, a tablet, a laptop, a two-way messaging device or an electronic game that is used or is capable of being used in a handheld manner.

Your voice will set you free.The law still allows the use of voice-activated texting and hands-free (Bluetooth) mobile phone operation while driving. It only applies to manual typing of messages with your fingers and handheld mobile phone operation in school and construction zones. This is most likely because of the greater extent and duration your eyes are off the road when manually entering your message as compared to speaking into a device while your eyes are still on the road ahead of you.

There are exceptions to every rule.Yes, the new texting law has several exceptions that allow text messages while driving.  The law permits you to receive and read messages while driving if they are related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle; safety-related, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts; data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or radio broadcasts. The law also exempts from penalty the use of a handheld device or system for navigation purposes. And for you Tesla drivers, you may manually text while operating an autonomous vehicle with the self-driving system engaged.

Keep this information in mind each time you get behind the wheel this year to avoid an unnecessary ticket.   

Michael Brehne is an Orlando attorney with over 22 years of experience with representing injured people in accidents as well as against their own insurance company when claims aren’t properly paid. This includes vehicle, homeowner’s, renter’s, disability, accidental death and life insurances. He is a decorated former law enforcement officer, serving with the Orlando Police Department as a detective and with the Florida Highway Patrol.

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