Texting while driving is illegal, but distracted driving is not?
In Florida, it is illegal to text, email or instant message while driving – anything that requires entering or reading multiple characters on a handheld electronic device. Violation of the law is considered a non-criminal traffic infraction that is punishable by a fine. Law enforcement officers cannot stop a driver for suspected texting. Rather, it is a secondary offense for which a driver can be ticketed only if stopped for another violation, such as speeding or running a stoplight.
While the text ban is clearly an important first step, it does little to protect motorists in Florida from car accidents caused by distracted drivers. According to Florida Department of Transportation, distracted driving is any activity that diverts the attention of a motorist from the task of operating the vehicle. Other than texting, such activities include talking on the phone – the most common, and several times more prevalent than texting – and eating food while trying to drive.
Unless a driver commits some other kind of violation, even while texting, there is nothing a law enforcement officer can do to prevent these types of activities. The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving does allow for law enforcement to obtain testimony from witnesses and phone records if a driver is suspected of using an electronic device behind the wheel. But, only after they have been involved in an accident in which someone was killed or injured.
Clearly, Florida’s text ban does little to protect other motorists on the state’s roads. It is not until there has been an injury accident that the law offers any real deterrent effect. It is, therefore, important that anyone who suspects a distracted driver contributed to an accident in which they or a loved one was injured contact an experienced attorney as soon as possible.
Source: 2017 Florida Statutes, Title XXIII, § 316.305, “Wireless communications devices; prohibition. –,” accessed Feb. 18, 2018
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