Florida’s Cellphone-Use & Texting-While-Driving Laws

Read about Florida’s distracted driving laws and the costs of a violation.

Florida’s distracted driving laws prohibit all motorists from text messaging while operating a vehicle and using a cellphone for any purpose in certain locations. This article covers the specifics of the law and the costs of a texting or cellphone ticket.

School and Construction Zones

Florida law prohibits using a handheld “wireless communication device” while operating a vehicle in any school zone, school crossing, or work zone. The definition of a wireless communication device is broad and includes cellphones, tablets, laptops, and similar devices.

Text Messaging

Florida’s distracted driving law prohibits all motorists from using a wireless communication device to write, send, or read a text message, including instant messages and email. Basically, a “wireless communication device” includes all cellphones, tablets, and similar devices that are capable of text-based communications or connecting to the Internet.

Exceptions

Florida’s distracted driving laws contain a number of exceptions. The law doesn’t apply to:

  • hands-free or voice-operated device use
  • to emergency services personnel (including medical professionals and police) performing official duties
  • anyone using a device to report an emergency or criminal activity
  • receiving navigation or safety-related information (like weather or traffic alerts) or radio broadcasts, or
  • using a device for navigation purposes (GPS) (must be in hands-free mode if in construction or school zones).

The distracted driving restrictions don’t apply when a person is in a vehicle that’s in autonomous driving mode.

Penalties for Distracted Driving Violations

Texting tickets. Texting-while-driving is a noncriminal traffic infraction in Florida. Depending on the circumstances, a texting ticket might cost the driver somewhere in the range of $100 to $200.

Wireless device tickets. Unlike texting violations, a wireless-device violation is considered a moving violation. A wireless-device ticket will result in three demerit points and might cost the driver something like $130 to $230, depending on the circumstances. However, for a first offense, the driver can opt to complete a wireless communication device driving safety program, and the court will waive the fine and points. (Prior to January 1, 2020, officers are only allowed to issue warnings for wireless device violations.)

Enforcement. Distracted driving violations are “primary” offenses—meaning an officer can pull a driver over just for a texting violation. In other words, an officer doesn’t need some other reason (like speeding or running a red light) for making the traffic stop. However, officers must inform drivers they stop that they are not required to turn over their devices for inspection.

Other possible Charges

Depending on the circumstances, a texting or wireless-device violation could also lead to a reckless driving conviction. And if a texting offense results in the death of another person, vehicular homicide charges are a possibility.

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