Distracted driving has become an increasing concern with the widespread use of cell phones for everything from talking to navigation to texting. There are about one thousand Florida car accidents each week caused by distracted driving. Florida is seeking to change that, in part through the state’s Wireless Communications While Driving Law, which took effect earlier this year. Under section 316.306 of Florida Statutes, drivers cannot drive while “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device” or while sending or reading information “for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication,” such as texting or emailing. Section 316.306 took effect on October 1st of this year. Under that section, drivers cannot drive while “using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner” in school zones or work zones. Drivers will be given a warning for violations under section 316.306 until the end of the year, but can be cited for violations starting on January 1, 2020.
The law was enacted in order to improve safety on Florida roads, to prevent crashes, to reduce injuries and associated costs, and to allow law enforcement officers to issue citations to drivers who are texting while driving. There are some exceptions under the law, such as when reporting an emergency and when receiving messages that are related to navigating the motor vehicle.
Florida is trying to reduce incidents of distracted driving through its campaign entitled “Put It Down: Focus on Driving.” Distracted driving can be anything that takes a driver’s eyes off the road (visual), hands off the wheel (manual), or mind off driving (cognitive). However, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles notes that texting is particularly dangerous, because it requires all three types of distraction (visual, manual, and cognitive). The Department’s 2018 statistics showed there were more than 52,000 distracted driving crashes in Florida that year, which amounts to over 1,000 per week. Florida drivers have to drive carefully and prudently, and drivers who fail to do so and cause personal injuries or property damage can be held liable.