Information on the new Hands Free Driving Law in Florida.
Hands Free Driving
A new state law was passed on July 1, 2019 to combat distracted drivers, referred to as the hands-free driving law in Florida. The law shortly went into effect in October of 2019, banning the input of data into handheld devices while driving in roadwork and school zones. This restriction was later expanded to include all public roads in the state of Florida. The purpose of this law is to promote safer roads and hands-free driving in Florida.
History of Hands-Free Driving
In a January 2019 report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) it was estimated that 5.3 percent of drivers at any given moment during daylight in the U.S. are using a cellular device. Fortunately, this over one in twenty drivers are not all staring at a screen. The dangers are still startling, with roughly fifty-five percent of those using a phone at any given moment using a handheld device and only forty-five percent using hands free. Recognizing this nationwide lack of hands-free driving in the United States, the Florida legislature decided to act, passing Florida Statutes § 316.305 and § 316.306 in the form of Senate Bill 76.
Prior to the passing of Senate Bill 76 in the summer of 2019 texting while driving was illegal but enforced as a “secondary offense.” The new law has made it a primary offense. As a secondary offense, a driver could only be cited for texting instead of driving hands-free if another traffic infraction was observed. This made enforcement near to impossible. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (DHSMV) reported nearly 50,000 cases of distracted drivers getting in accidents in 2016, this includes a tragic 233 deaths. In the mid 2000’s various bills were filed in the state house and the state senate to make it a primary offense. It took a few years to receive enough traction to be passed in the summer of 2019.
The Law Today
The biggest change is the form of police contact. Texting and driving has been illegal for some time, but classified as a “secondary” offense, required a different crime or traffic violation to begin the stop and the investigation. Failing to drive hands-free in the state of Florida is now a “primary” offense, if a police officer sees it, that can be the impetus for a traffic stop and a subsequent ticket.
The original roll-out was for traffic work zones and school zones, under Section § 316.306, creating a moving violation and a minimum fine of sixty dollars. A conviction also results in 3 points against the violator’s driving privilege in the state of Florida. These penalties still apply today, but roll-out of the full law has now taken affect. Texting anywhere in the state of Florida that is not a traffic or school zone can still result in a ticket, albeit with reduced penalties. A ticket outside one of these zones will carry a minimum of a $30 fine with no points assessed and the classification of a non-moving violation. If a person offends a second time with in 5 years the penalty increases to match an offense in traffic and school zones. Points tallied against a driving privilege can have lasting ramifications, including increased insurance and even suspension of driving privileges if enough points are accrued.
Fortunately, it is easy to comply with the new law by practicing hands free driving in Florida. One way to avoid these charges is to simply use a Bluetooth feature to control the phone by voice. Many modern vehicles as well as older vehicles with updated head units may also include Apple CarPlay or Android Auto. Both of these help a driver to keep an eye on the road with updates popping up in a large stationary screen just below the driving view and updating the driver using audio directions. If none of these technologies are a possibility it is important to put the phone down while driving in Florida, no text message is worth a fine and lasting driving ramifications, and certainly there are none that are worth the life of yourself, a passenger or another person on or near the road.
Don Pumphrey and the firm have years of experience representing defendants in traffic and criminal cases in Florida. We are dedicated to defending the rights of clients and will fight for the best possible disposition or dismissal in your Florida traffic ticket. Call (850) 681-7777 or send an online message today to discuss your rights during an open and completely free consultation with our legal team.
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