As long as this woman sends text messages standing beside her vehicle, she’s immune from the state of Florida’s new texting and driving ban that begins Oct. 1.
Starting Oct. 1, it is illegal to text and drive on Florida’s roadways.
Gov. Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 52 into law May 28. It prohibits a person from manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device. This includes text messaging, emailing and instant messaging through smart phones or other like devices.
Florida legislators enacted the new law in an attempt to improve roadway safety for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians, according to the bill’s text. The goal is to prevent crashes related to texting or emailing and driving.
The bill includes exemptions for law enforcement, fire and emergency personnel using a device in performance of their duty, and motorists reporting an emergency, criminal, or suspicious activity to law enforcement or emergency personnel.
Motorists are allowed to receive messages that are related to the operation or navigation of their vehicle; safety-related information, including emergency, traffic or weather alerts; data used primarily by the vehicle; or radio broadcasts. Motorists also can use wireless communications devices for navigation purposes. The devices can be used while a vehicle is off the roadway and not in motion.
“At any given daylight moment across America, approximately 660,000 drivers are using cell phones or manipulating electronic devices while driving, a number that has held steady since 2010,” according to distraction.gov. “Engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times.
“Sending or receiving a text takes a driver's eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, the equivalent-at 55 mph-of driving the length of an entire football field, blind.”
Florida’s law makes texting while driving a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement can’t stop a vehicle just because a driver is observed in the unlawful use of a communications device. However, a driver can be ticketed for the offense if pulled over for another offense, such as speeding or reckless driving.
Motorists who violate the texting while driving ban will be guilty of a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation. A motorist who is caught disobeying the ban a second time within five years will be guilty of a noncriminal traffic violation punishable as a moving violation.
Violations of the texting and driving ban will result in points assigned to a motorist driver’s license, which can be suspended when 12 points are accumulated. Unlawful use of a wireless communication device resulting in a crash costs six points. A moving violation committed in conjunction with the unlawful use of a wire communications device within a school safety zone will cost a motorist an additional two points.
If a driver is involved in a crash resulting in death or personal injury, records from a wireless device that may have been in use at the time are admissible as evidence of wrongdoing.
Distraction.gov lists several activities that could be considered driver distractions, including texting, using a cell phone or smartphone, eating, drinking, talking to passengers, grooming, reading (including maps), using a navigation system and watching a video.
“But, because text messaging requires visual, manual and cognitive attention from the driver, it is by far the most alarming distraction,” the website concludes.