On May 28, 2013, Florida Governor Rick Scott signed Senate Bill 52 into law. Senate Bill 52 bans texting, emailing, and instant messaging while driving. It is referred to as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law.” Florida joins most other states in implementing a full or partial ban on hand-held device use while driving. The intent of the law, per its language, is to improve roadway safety; prevent crashes; reduce injuries, deaths, property damage, health care costs, and insurance rate; and allow police officers to issue citations as a secondary offense.
Talking on a hand-held device while driving is banned in multiple states. Text messaging while driving is banned in 41 states. It is also banned in the District of Columbia. The use of cell phones by young drivers is restricted in 37 states, although Florida is not included in the states with a young driver restriction. Many other municipalities have enacted restrictions as well. South Carolina, Arizona, and Montana are the only three states that have no restrictions at all on texting while driving.
Additionally, texting and the use of hand-held devices by commercial and bus drivers while operating such vehicles is prohibited by federal regulations. Under regulations published by the Federal Motor Carriers Safety Administration (FMCSA), fines and penalties can be assessed against drivers caught violating this rule. Drivers can be fined up to $2,750, and employers can be fined up to $11,000. Violations can also result in loss of a driver’s qualification. These fines and penalties come in the wake of research done for FMCSA showing that the risk of crashes and other potentially dangerous traffic violations, such as lane deviations, is more than 23 times higher for drivers of commercial vehicles that text while driving. Drivers who text while driving look away from the road for approximately 4.6 seconds, which covers a distance of 371 feet at 55 miles per hour.
Lawsuits have been brought all around the United States alleging that truck drivers were texting while driving and therefore negligent in causing accidents. In 2012, in New Jersey, a lawsuit was also brought against the sender of text messages to an individual the sender knew to be driving, although the judge eventually dismissed the complaint against the sender. If you or your loved one has been involved in a car or trucking accident in the Miami area and texting may have been involved, please contact us to discuss your case. The office of Greenberg Stone and Urbano, has been handling car and truck accidents in Miami and throughout South Florida for decades. Please visit our website to learn more about our car accident attorneys, and contact us today for a free consultation at (305)595-2400.
Despite its attempts to ban texting, emailing, and instant message while driving, critics of Florida’s Senate Bill 52 have asserted that it is insufficient. One major criticism is that it is a secondary offense law. This means that an individual cannot be stopped for violating the Florida law. However, an individual can be cited for an offense if the individual is stopped for another violation. Florida’s seatbelt usage law also started out as a secondary offense law, but eventually became a primary offense law. Fines for violating the hand-held device use law are also small-$30 for a first offense and $60 for a second offense within five years. Critics have also questioned the exceptions in the law, which include use of hand-held devices for navigation, voice-to-text services, and while stopped at a red light.