Florida Legislative Developments – Texting and Driving

Technology opens-up new frontiers for communication, recreation and other essential parts of daily life, but it also carries additional concerns related to safety, ethics and personal conduct. As mobile technology has exploded, allowing users to carry data wherever they go, a growing set of problems has emerged for legislators and law enforcement agencies. As if distracted driving during cellular phone use does not present enough of a safety concern, the proliferation of texting presents an even more dangerous trend on the road.

About a dozen states maintain hand-held device bans for drivers. Under the terms of most of these laws, mobile phones may be used with headsets, provided drivers keep both hands on the wheel. No states ban cell phone use entirely, though there are several laws on the books prohibiting students or novice drivers from using mobile devices on the road.

On the other hand, the consequences of texting while driving have played out tragically, so most states have imposed strict bans on texting and driving. While it may seem like common sense to avoid using a miniature keyboard while operating a vehicle, laws have been consistently reinforced to eradicate the dangerous practice. The State of Florida is on-board with national trends against texting and driving, including developments within the past year.

Florida Ban on Texting and Driving Law

The Florida Legislature passed a specific prohibition against texting in 2013. The law expressly bans drivers from using mobile devices for the purpose of texting, instant massaging or sending emails. Intended to improve public safety for drivers and pedestrians and to reduce injury and death associated with distracted driving, the law furnishes provisions for law enforcement agencies, as well.

Under authority of the statute, Florida law enforcement officials are empowered to pull drivers over and issues citations for the secondary offense of texting while driving. Exceptions are written-in to the law allowing drivers to use voice texting equipment or other hands-off technology to send messages. Further accommodations are included in the law for certain types of information gleaned from mobile communications devices, including safety updates, weather information and data used for navigation.

According to the law, texting is allowed for parked motorists and drivers at stop signs. Penalties for reoffenders are stiffer when subsequent infractions occur within 5 years of the original offense. And when crashes are suspected to involve texting and driving offenses, the law provides the basis for using phone bills and texting records to prosecute offenders.

Recent Initiatives

Due to the severity and proliferation of poor outcomes related to texting and driving, recent legislative initiatives have sought to strengthen the Florida law. One effort, which eventually died in committee, attempted to eliminate the secondary nature of enforcement of texting laws. Passage of the bill may have strengthened the state’s stance against distracted driving by allowing peace officers to treat texting behind the wheel as a primary offense.

Another legislative initiative sought stiffer penalties for offenders caught texting and driving. Under the proposed bill, enhancements would be applied when offenders were cited for texting in school zones or near school crossings. The proposal, slated to go into effect in July, 2014, failed to move forward.

While Florida has mirrored other states, making strides against texting and driving, the issue is far from resolved. As evidenced by recent efforts to strengthen Florida’s texting laws, legislators must continue to respond to technological advances, accounting for their potential to harm motorists and pedestrians.


Daphne Holmes contributed this guest post. She is a writer from arrestrecords.com and you can reach her at daphneholmes9@gmail.com.