There is no question that cell phones have made it easier for us to maintain contact with each other, but at any time of the day or night, about 660,000 drivers are behind the wheel and using their phones. A large percentage of those drivers are texting while they’re driving. Texting while driving is a form of distracted driving, and by far, it’s the most dangerous form of distracted driving.
When a person is simultaneously participating in another activity that diverts his or her attention from driving safely, he or she is engaged in distracted driving. That’s when the odds of being involved in a motor vehicle crash increase drastically. In order to text and drive, a person is participating in the three following distractions at the same time:
- Visual: When drivers take their eyes off of the road.
- Manual: When drivers take their hands off of the steering wheel.
- Cognitive: When drivers take their minds off of driving.
Not Limited to Texting:
The amended statute isn’t limited to texting. Other phone activity is also addressed. A person is prohibited from “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters in a wireless communications device.” Given the quoted language, not only is it against the law in Florida to text, it’s also against the law for a driver to enter a phone number.
What is a Wireless Communications Device?
House Bill 107 defines a communications device as a “handheld used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the internet or any communications service.” This expansive definition of a wireless communications device would appear to include the following:
- Cell phones.
- Tablets or laptops of any size.
The most important exception to House Bill 107 is that it is perfectly permissible to use a device while driving, so long as its used in a way that doesn’t require manual entry of characters, except to initiate a function or feature. Other exceptions for motorists involve reporting an emergency, crime or suspicious activity, receiving messages, receiving traffic safety information and receiving messages in connection with the operation or navigation of the vehicle. Of course, the performance of official duties of police and firefighters are also exempted.
The law will not apply to people in self driving cars if they’re not driving. With the increasing number of self-driving cars on the road, expect the statute to be revised again in the near future.