Every year cell phones become more advanced. These devices allow us to make calls, send texts, search on Google, browse social media, take pictures, and even track people’s locations. While this advanced technology has made our lives easier in a lot of ways, our attachment to our smartphones has made driving much more dangerous.
Even though texting and driving is against the law in Florida, many motorists use their phones while behind the wheel. These drivers put everyone else on the road at risk. To learn more about Tampa’s texting while driving laws and how they might impact a car accident case, speak with an experienced attorney today.
The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law
In July 2019, Florida legislators issued a law banning texting while driving. As stated under Florida Statutes § 316.305, the purpose of this law is to:
- Improve safety for everyone on the road, including bicyclists and pedestrians
- Prevent texting while driving accidents
- Reduce injuries, property damage, healthcare costs, and fatalities related to vehicle collisions
This statute differs from the previous laws, in that it deems texting while driving a primary offense.
What is a Primary Offense?
A primary offense is an unlawful act that a law enforcement officer can pull you over for and issue a citation. Previously, texting while driving was a secondary offense, meaning police could not pull you over specifically for texting. Under the current law, law enforcement officers are authorized to stop vehicles and issue citations to people who are texting and driving.
The fact that texting while driving has shifted from a secondary offense to a primary offense is evidence of the dangers of this reckless ask. If you were in a car accident with someone who was texting, a local attorney familiar with the laws can help you demonstrate that the other party’s traffic violation is evidence of their negligence.
Additional Laws Against the Use of Electronic Devices While Driving in Tampa
The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law covers more than just texting. Under Fla. Stat. § 316.305(3)(a), it is also illegal to operate a vehicle while manually typing into a wireless communication device. Additionally, drivers are not permitted to send or read messages or other data on a device.
Anything from texting, emailing, or posting on social media can be deemed a violation of this law. You do not even have to be using a cell phone to be issued a citation by the police. Any handheld device designed to send and receive character-based messages, connect to the internet or access data is considered a “wireless communication device.” This can include any tablet such as a Kindle or iPad, smartwatches, laptops, gaming devices, and other devices
What are the Exceptions to the Texting and Driving Laws?
There are some exceptions to the state’s ban against texting and driving. The law does not apply to:
- Authorized emergency vehicle operators performing official duties
- Drivers reporting criminal activity or emergencies to law enforcement
- Motorists using navigation tools or any GPS
- Drivers reading emergency traffic or weather alerts
- Motorists listening to radio broadcasts
- Voice texting and voice playback of texted information is allowed
Even though these exceptions can help someone avoid a traffic citation, it does not mean they will automatically escape civil liability for causing a car accident.
Can I Read a Text while Stopped?
The short answer is yes. According to Florida Statutes 316.305 and 316.306, texting or reading electronic data is banned while driving. If the vehicle is stationary–you are not subjected to the statutes. So if you are stopped at a light, you technically can use your phone. Now, we don’t recommend this as it is still a distraction on the road that can cause a motor vehicle accident.
Can I Use Headphones or Wireless Earphones While Driving in Florida?
There is another Florida Statue 316.304, that states that you cannot wear a headset while operating a vehicle, both wireless and wired devices. The law does allow to use one headset or AirPod or earbud if the other ear is open to hear surrounding sounds. Despite this allowance, having a headphone in one ear can potentially still be distracting and not allow you to have your full attention on the road.
How Does Permitted Cell Phone Use Impact Liability for a Vehicle Collision?
If a driver was distracted by the GPS on their phone and subsequently rear-ended you, they may not have violated the law, but you could still pursue compensation. Distracted driving is an act of negligence, and a skilled Tampa lawyer can help you hold them responsible despite the exceptions to the texting while driving laws.
Ask a Lawyer About the Tampa Texting While Driving Laws
Texting while driving is both dangerous and against the law. If you believe the motorist who caused your collision was using a phone or another electronic device, reach out to Hancock Injury Attorneys right away. Our legal team understands the Tampa texting while driving laws and can help you prove the other party is liable. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.