Distracted driving in Florida is more than just texting and driving.  It includes any use of a cell phone, handheld device, or headphones while driving. The car accident lawyers at Distasio Law Firm designed this guide to help you understand all of the driving while texting laws in Florida that apply to these devices.

By following the recommendations in this guide, you will learn what type of cell phone use while driving will get you a ticket in Florida. Topics covered include texting and driving in Florida, talking on the phone, viewing data while driving, using a GPS, and using headphones, earbuds, and airbuds while driving.

Florida Texting While Driving Laws FAQS

Consider this your complete guide to Florida’s texting while driving laws in 2021. These are the answers to our clients’ most frequently asked questions.

What Is Distracted Driving?

Distracted driving is defined as anything that draws the attention of a driver away from the road. It includes texting and talking on cell phones. The accessibility of mobile devices has increased the rate of distracted driving accidents, particularly among teen drivers.

According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), distracted driving claims the lives of more than 3,000 people each year. This is why Florida’s new distracted driving law is so important.

According to a study conducted by an app called EverDrive, 92% of U.S. motorists have used their phones while operating a moving vehicle. That includes behavior like texting, dialing, posting to social media, or other activities.

The app collected data on over 2.7 million trips over 230 million miles, assigning drivers a score based on their driving performance and giving them a score. It assesses a variety of types of driving behavior, such as phone use, speeding, hard turns, or risky acceleration. When looking at the behavior of Florida drivers, specifically, 44% of drives involve phone use.

Distracted driving is particularly dangerous for teen drivers. According to the NHTSA, in 2015, 9% of teen drivers who were involved in fatal collisions were distracted at the time of the accident.

While there are all kinds of distractions that can happen behind the wheel, from young kids and other passengers in the back to changing the radio, mobile phone use is one of the most dangerous types of behaviors. It requires the driver to take their hands and eyes off the road and think about things other than driving. This means it provides visual, manual, and cognitive distractions when you’re operating a moving vehicle.

Can You Use a Cell Phone While Driving in Florida?

In recent years there has been an effort by some politicians to ban all cell phone use while driving in Florida. Currently, it is illegal to text using a hand-held device while driving. It is also illegal to search for and read information on the internet or while using apps. Lastly, it is illegal to use headphones, earphones or headsets while driving.

However, as of 2020, many mobile phone activities in Florida are still not illegal. For example, it is not illegal in Florida to make or receive phone calls on your cell phone while driving with a few exceptions. Those exceptions will be discussed below. It is also not illegal to text using hands free voice activated technology while driving. An experienced injury attorney will advise that you not use the phone at all while you are driving, just to stay safe and avoid liability.

driver-looking-at-his-cell-phone-instead-of-the-road

A driver looking at his cell phone instead of the road. He won’t have time to react to prevent an accident.

The Florida Cell Phone and Driving Law

Florida law 316.305 and Florida law 316.306 are the two Florida statutes that address using a cell phone while driving. Section 316.305 is titled “Wireless communications devices; prohibition.” The statute says the section may be cited as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law.”

The title of Florida law 316.305 is a bit deceiving because it doesn’t really ban all texting activity. In addition, the wording of the statute is a bit confusing because the ban is not limited to just texting. The statute also bans reading electronic information while driving. To really understand when you can use your cell phone while driving in Florida, you must first understand what is actually banned.

According to section 316.305(3)(a) a person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such device for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, emailing, and instant messaging. This sentence is simply a mouthful. So we will break it down in each of the sections below.

Section 316.306 is titled “School and work zones; prohibition on the use of a wireless communications device in a handheld manner.” This statute bans the use of a handheld device while driving for any reason in a designated school crossing, school zone, or work zone area. The ban includes talking on the phone as well as texting. But it only applies to actual driving. It does not apply when you are stopped in one of these areas.

Texting and Driving in Florida

Texting and driving in Florida is covered by Florida law 316.305. The statute makes it illegal to use your hands to text on any wireless device while driving. This includes mobile phones, notebooks, tablets, laptops, electronic games, a surface, or an iPad. A seasoned car accident lawyer at our firm will recommend that you not use any devices while driving, even if they are wireless.

Any distraction while you are driving is too much distraction. It’s best to keep your complete focus on the road. While you are driving, according to Florida law you may not enter data by texting, emailing, instant messaging, or using social media or other apps. You also may not enter data into a GPS system while driving. However, that does not mean all forms of texting while driving in Florida is banned.

The statute is very carefully worded to try and make it clear that it is only banning manually entering data using your hands and viewing data while driving. Voice texting and voice playback of texted information are permitted.

In other words, you can have a passenger read you text messages and then respond for you. It also means you can use any device that allows you to speak the text and then audibly plays back the responses. Some hand-held devices will do this, but the most common devices are built into the car and connect to your mobile phone or other device by Bluetooth. This is called hands-free texting.

a no hand-held devices while driving sign

A no hand-held devices while driving sign. The life you will save by obeying this sign could be your own.

 

Viewing Data While Driving in Florida

Simply put, you cannot read data from a handheld device while driving in Florida. This means you cannot look at text messages, emails, instant messages, electronic messages, social media, or apps.

Using GPS While Driving in Florida

The statute only bans reading data for the purpose of interpersonal non-voice communication. It also has a specific exception for using a device or system for navigation purposes. This means you are allowed to view GPS maps and directions while driving if the course was already programmed and started before driving. To comply with the statute, you can enter the data into the navigation system before you begin driving and then view the GPS while you are driving.

Using Your Mobile Phone When You Are Stopped in Florida

Florida law 316.305 and Florida law 316.306 only ban texting and reading electronic data while driving. The statutes specifically state that a motor vehicle that is stationary is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibitions of the statute.

In other words, you can use your cell phone in Florida for any reason while stopped at a light or on the side of the road. This also applies to any other type of handheld device.

Phone Calls While Driving in Florida

If you read Florida law 316.305 carefully, you will see that it never mentions talking on the phone while driving. That means you can currently talk on the phone while driving in Florida with a few exceptions. You can do this by using a hands-free device to make and receive phone calls. But it also means you can put your cell phone up to your ear with your hands to make and receive calls.

The exceptions to talking on a mobile handheld device while driving are outlined in Florida law 316.306. They include designated school crossings, school zones, or work zones with construction personnel present. When you are in these areas and the car is moving, you cannot talk on your cell phone or other mobile device.

Law Enforcement Search of a Phone Without a Warrant

In Florida, law enforcement can take your phone away from you during a valid arrest. But law enforcement can’t search your phone without a warrant, unless they have probable cause to do so. Pulling you over for violating Florida laws 316.305 or 316.306 does not give them probable cause.

This means the police cannot search your phone simply because you were texting while driving. In fact, the statutes specifically state that the cops must advise you of your right to decline a search of your handheld device when they pull you over for violating these statutes.

Collection of Driver Data by Law Enforcement

When someone is pulled over and given a ticket for violating Florida law 316.305 or 316.306, the officer must record the race and ethnicity of the person that violated the law. This information is then sent to the state of Florida. The state must report the data as statewide totals.

The reason for gathering this information is unclear. However, it appears Florida is attempting to determine if police officers are giving tickets for texting while driving in a discriminatory manner.

Using Headphones, Earphones, and Headsets While Driving in Florida

Florida law 316.304, titled “Wearing of headsets” states that no person shall operate an automobile while wearing a headset, headphone, or other listening device, other than a hearing aid. This ban applies to both wireless and wired devices. But the statute does allow you to use a headset, headphone, earphone, earbud, or apple airpods if they provide sound through one ear and allow surrounding sounds to be heard with the other ear. In other words, have one ear without a listening device covering it or in it.

The reason for the ban is that when you are wearing a headset, headphones, or ear phones over both ears you cannot hear traffic noises around you. By only covering one ear, the other ear is capable of listening for potentially dangerous traffic conditions.

 

a woman wearing earbuds while driving

A woman wearing earbuds while driving. It may be legal, but her attention is still not fully on the road.

 

Penalty for Violating the Law

Texting while driving is a primary offense in Florida. This means you can be pulled over and given a ticket if a law enforcement officer sees you violating any of these laws against texting while driving. But a violation of these laws is a noncriminal traffic infraction that does not result in points on your license for a first violation.

This means you can get a ticket and will have to pay a fine. If you violate the texting while driving law a second time within 5 years you can get points on your license as well as another ticket and a fine.

The Safest Way to Use Your Devices in the Car

Distracted driving has become an epidemic and the use of handheld mobile devices is at the heart of the problem. The truth is that most people are simply not capable of safely using a mobile device while driving under any circumstance. This includes using hands-free technology.

Research from the University of Illinois proves that using a cell phone or mobile device while driving is so distracting that the driver fails to recognize dangers in time to react to them. You would think using hands free technology such as Bluetooth would reduce the level of distraction and help prevent car accident injuries. But the studies do not bear this out. It appears that using hands free technology is just as distracting as using a hand-held mobile phone.

The bottom line is that the safest thing to do is not use your cell phone or other mobile device under any circumstance while driving. Put the phone down and turn it off when driving. After you complete your trip then you can pick it back up and turn it on. This will reduce the temptation of responding to texts or answering phone calls. If you absolutely have to make or receive a call or text message, pull over and stop the car in a safe place before you do so.

How Police Enforce Texting While Driving Laws

If the police see you texting while driving, make no mistake about it, they will pull you over and give you a ticket. You may assume you’ll see them coming and have time to put your phone down, but police across the US have been wearing creative disguises to catch texting drivers off-guard. You should always assume law enforcement could possibly see you using your phone.

How Much a Texting While Driving Ticket Costs in Florida

Florida now has stricter laws on texting while driving. If you are caught and charged with texting and driving and it’s your first offense, expect a $30 fine and court fees. The second time you are caught, your fine will increase to $60, and your fees will increase as well. You will also lose three points on your driver’s license, but you could lose more depending on the details of your case. It’s best not to risk it.