Texting and Driving in Florida

March 22, 2024
Jack Fine

Using phones while driving is an escalating concern on today’s roadways, prompting Florida to enact legislative measures to stop this dangerous behavior. Understanding Florida’s approach to tackling distracted driving empowers drivers to make choices that enhance their own safety as well as that of others around them.

If you’ve been involved in a car accident due to texting and driving, the experienced car accident attorneys at Fine, Farkash & Parlapiano, P.A. are here to offer their assistance. Their expertise in handling cases related to distracted driving accidents can provide you with the necessary legal support to navigate the aftermath of these incidents.

Definition of texting and driving

Texting and driving refers to the act of engaging in text-based communications on a cell phone while in control of a motor vehicle. This behavior includes a range of activities that divert attention from the road, including:

  • Looking at texts: Glancing at the phone screen to read incoming messages.
  • Composing text messages: Typing out responses or initiating new conversations.
  • Showing messages to passengers: Sharing the content of texts with passengers.
  • Reading the texts of passengers: Viewing messages received by passengers.
  • Searching through text messages: Scrolling or searching through message histories for specific information.
  • Other text messaging-related tasks: Any additional interactions with text messaging services that require visual or manual focus away from driving tasks.

Importance of addressing the issue in Florida

In Florida, the urgency to confront texting and driving stems from its significant impact on road safety. The state’s diverse population, combined with a high number of tourists, contributes to a busy and often congested road environment. Given these conditions, the distraction posed by texting and driving amplifies the risk of accidents, endangering the lives of drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.

Current laws and regulations in Florida regarding texting and driving

The act of texting and driving is regulated by specific laws in Florida that are designed to enhance road safety. The primary law covering this issue is known as The Wireless Communications While Driving Law, codified under Florida Statute 316.305. This law explicitly prohibits the use of handheld wireless communication devices for texting while driving. It applies to a range of electronic devices including, but not limited to, mobile phones, tablets, laptops, electronic gaming devices, and iPads.

Under Florida Statute 316.305(3)(a), individuals are not allowed to operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into any wireless communications device. This includes performing actions like sending or reading messages for non-voice interpersonal communication. The types of communication specified include texting, emailing, and instant messaging, among others.

Additionally, Florida Statute 316.306 focuses on enhancing safety in particularly vulnerable areas such as school crossings, school zones, and work zones. This statute prohibits the use of a phone in a handheld manner entirely while driving in these designated areas. This ban covers all forms of handheld device use, including making phone calls. 

Penalties for texting and driving violations

The state of Florida enforces penalties for texting and driving violations to deter drivers from engaging in this dangerous behavior: 

First Offense: If you’re caught texting and driving, the first offense is classified as a non-moving traffic violation. This comes with a base fine of $30. However, this amount does not include any additional court costs or fees that may apply. This initial violation does not impact the points on their driver’s license.

Second Offense Within Five Years: Should you commit a second offense within a five-year period, the violation is elevated to a moving traffic violation. This incurs a more substantial base fine of $60. Like the first offense, this does not include court costs and other possible fees. Additionally, this offense results in 3 points being added to your driving record. 

Moving Traffic Violation: Regardless of it being a first or subsequent offense, any moving traffic violation related to texting and driving incurs a base fine of $60, plus court costs and any other fees. The addition of three points to the driver’s license is consistent with the penalty for a second offense within five years. These points can contribute to the risk of license suspension if the driver accumulates too many within a specific timeframe.

Statistics on distracted driving accidents in Florida

Distracted driving remains a significant public safety concern in Florida, contributing to a substantial number of road accidents each year. 

Number of accidents caused by distracted drivers

In 2022, distracted driving was a major factor in road safety issues within Florida, leading to a worrying number of crashes, injuries, and fatalities:

  • There were 54,895 crashes attributed to distracted driving across the state.
  • These incidents resulted in 275 fatalities.
  • 2,656 individuals sustained serious injuries in these crashes.
  • 20-24 year-olds were the most affected by distracted driving incidents, accounting for 15% of these cases. 

Contribution of texting while driving to overall accident rates

Texting while driving poses a substantial risk on roads not only in Florida but across the United States. At any given moment, approximately 660,000 drivers nationwide are using cell phones to text, call, or perform other functions while operating a vehicle

Additionally, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), about 400 fatal crashes annually are directly attributed to texting and driving. This statistic highlights the deadly consequences of dividing attention between a cell phone and the road.

The impact of texting and driving on road safety

Texting and driving is a pervasive issue that significantly compromises road safety. This dangerous practice distracts drivers, leading to an increased risk of accidents and a marked reduction in the driver’s attention to the road and surrounding conditions. 

Increased risk of accidents due to distraction

Texting while driving increases the risk of vehicular accidents by diverting the driver’s attention from the primary task of driving. When drivers engage in texting, they are not only focusing their visual attention away from the road but are also mentally distracted, impairing their ability to make quick decisions or react to sudden changes in traffic conditions. Studies have shown that texting and driving can delay a driver’s reaction time slower than those driving legally intoxicated.

This form of distraction is particularly dangerous because it involves all three main types of distraction:

  • Visual: taking eyes off the road,
  • Manual: taking hands off the wheel, and
  • Cognitive: taking the mind off driving.

The combination of these distractions significantly increases the likelihood of collisions, ranging from minor fender benders to severe, fatal crashes. The momentary lapse in concentration can result in failing to notice stop signs, pedestrians, other vehicles, or changes in traffic lights.

Lack of focus on the road and surroundings

Texting while driving leads to a substantial decrease in a driver’s awareness of their immediate environment. Engaging with a mobile device means that crucial cues and warning signs on the road may be missed, including:

  • Speed limit changes
  • Pedestrian crosswalks
  • Vehicle proximity
  • Traffic signals

Furthermore, the lack of focus can also impact the driver’s ability to navigate safely around obstacles, respond to weather conditions, or recognize the actions of other drivers in time to prevent accidents. This negligence not only endangers the texting driver but also other road users, including passengers, pedestrians, and cyclists.

Measures taken by law enforcement authorities to combat texting while driving

Law enforcement agencies in Florida have recognized the critical impact of texting and driving on road safety and have implemented various measures to tackle this issue. These efforts range from educational campaigns to heightened police presence on the roads, all aimed at reducing the incidence of distracted driving and its consequent risks. Here are some of the key initiatives:

Education campaigns about the dangers of texting and driving

In response to the alarming rise in distracted driving incidents, which saw 333 fatalities in 2021—the highest in at least eight years—the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), along with the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), initiated the Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign. This campaign is focused on highlighting the severe risks associated with texting and driving and aims to educate Florida motorists of the importance of maintaining focus while on the road.

Increasing police presence on roads to deter offenders

Another significant measure adopted by law enforcement authorities involves bolstering the presence of police on Florida’s roads. This strategy is designed to serve as a deterrent to potential offenders, signaling a strong stance against texting and driving. Increased police visibility has several immediate benefits:

  • Immediate Enforcement: Officers are more readily able to identify and take action against individuals who violate texting and driving laws.
  • Psychological Deterrent: The knowledge that law enforcement is actively monitoring roads for distracted driving behavior can discourage motorists from engaging in such activities.
  • Public Safety Enhancement: A greater police presence contributes to overall road safety, as drivers are more likely to adhere to traffic laws and regulations when they know enforcement is nearby.

Challenges faced by law enforcement officers in enforcing anti-texting laws

Enforcing anti-texting laws in Florida presents several unique challenges to law enforcement officers. Despite the clear dangers associated with texting and driving and the existence of laws designed to mitigate this behavior, officers on the ground face obstacles that complicate enforcement efforts. 

A primary hurdle is the difficulty in identifying drivers who are texting. Unlike more conspicuous violations such as speeding, texting can be easily concealed, with drivers often keeping their devices out of view. 

Moreover, the legal framework surrounding privacy adds complexity to enforcement. Officers must navigate the delicate balance between catching lawbreakers and respecting individuals’ privacy rights, making it challenging to confirm texting activities without overstepping legal boundaries. 

New technologies further complicate enforcement efforts. Features like voice-to-text, along with the use of smartwatches and other wearable devices, offer drivers alternative means to communicate, making it increasingly difficult for officers to identify when texting laws are being violated.

If you or someone close to you has been involved in a car accident caused by texting and driving, reach out to us for a complimentary, no-obligation consultation at (352) 372-7777. One of our experienced car accident lawyers will examine the specifics of your situation and explore all your legal avenues with you. 


Put It Down: Focus On Driving | FLHSMV 

Texting and driving statistics 2022 | Bankrate 

Understanding the Distracted Brain | National Safety Council 

After Deadly Year, FLHSMV Launches Distracted Driving Awareness Campaign | FLHSMV 

316.305 Wireless communications devices; prohibition | The Florida Legislature 

316.306 School and work zones; prohibition on the use of a wireless communications device in a handheld manner | The Florida Legislature