Florida is known nationally for having some of the deadliest roadways. So why is it that Florida is one of only four states to treat texting while driving as a secondary offense, and not a primary offense. In Florida, law enforcement can only pull a driver over for texting if the officer sees the driver committing another violation as well.
According to Insurance Institute for Highway Safety statistics, five of the seven states without a primary offense law have highway death rates above the national average. Florida, Montana and Arizona tied for the ninth-highest fatality rate.
In Florida last year, there were 49,231 accidents resulting in 235 deaths caused by distracted drivers, according to data compiled by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The number of distracted driving car crashes in Florida has risen steadily since the texting as a secondary offense law took effect in October 2013.
Florida’s texting law, as it stands, makes texting while driving a secondary offense and subject to a $20 fine with no points assessed on a driver’s record. After several years of failed attempts to change the law, the Florida Legislature is once again looking to toughen distracted driving laws with the introduction of Bill HB 33: Texting While Driving.
If the proposed Bill (HB 33) passes, it would make texting behind the wheel a primary offense. Police will no longer have to wait for another violation to cite the driver. A texting while driving violation would carry a $30 fine plus court costs, for a total penalty of up to $108, and a second or subsequent violation within five years would be subject to a $60 fine plus court costs totaling $158. A violation resulting in a crash would add six points to the driver’s record.
If you would like to follow the Bill’s progress visit: https://www.flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/00033.