In July 2019, Florida passed The Wireless Communications While Driving Law (Florida Statutes 316.305), which made “texting” while driving a primary traffic offense. The law went into effect in 2020. Texting includes sending text messages, checking emails, and using social media apps.
This new law allows law enforcement officers to pull over and ticket drivers specifically for texting while behind the wheel. Previously, drivers could only be ticketed for texting if they were pulled over for another violation first, e.g. speeding.
Details of The New Law
The primary reason for the new law is combat distracted driving. In fact, a 2016 study ranked Florida as the second worst state for distracted driving. That same year distracted drivers in Florida caused nearly 50,000 accidents, 233 of which resulted in death.
Because texting requires visual, manual, and cognitive distraction, reducing such distractions will:
- Increase the safety of all drivers, passengers, bicyclists, pedestrians, and other people using the roads.
- Decrease the injuries, deaths, property damage, medical costs, and insurance rate increases that result from car and truck accidents.
The new law specifically prohibits operating a motor vehicle while “manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device.” So, “texting” includes email, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media apps.
Pro Tip: The new law does not apply in two important situations. First, devices used for navigation are exempt from the law, both smartphones and built-in navigation systems. Second, drivers are allowed to text while vehicles are “stationary,” which includes being stopped red lights or stop signs.
Not only will having fewer distracted drivers make Florida’s roads safer for everyone, but the new texting and driving law will also affect negligence and liability assignments in car and motor vehicle accident claims.
Florida’s Comparative Liability Standard
In some cases, determining driver fault and negligence is clear-cut. But more often, it isn’t so simple. Drivers should know that Florida operates according to the principle of comparative liability. Under the comparative liability system, both parties in the accident essentially share fault. For example, if one driver makes an aggressive left turn in front of an oncoming driver who was speeding, there will be a discussion of what percentage of the fault to assign to each driver. These percentages of fault will directly determine the amount of damages recoverable by each party.
As such, shifting the liability onto the other driver is important to increase the amount of compensation you can recover. To do that, though, you must prove the defendant acted in a negligent manner. A personal injury attorney can benefit you by marshalling facts to prove that you bear a smaller percentage of fault (i.e. less comparative liability) such that you get larger percentage of compensation.
Proof of Negligence
In particular, the new texting and driving law includes a provision (F.S. §316.305(3)(d)) stating that cell phone billing records can be used as evidence to show that the driver violated the new law in the event of an accident that results in death or personal injury. This provides your personal injury lawyer with another tool to prove the other party’s liability in your car accident case.
Professional Help for Accident Victims
Navigating the Florida liability laws and assigning negligence in a car accident can be tricky. Hiring a personal injury lawyer to handle your case is a sensible move because they are experienced in negotiating with insurance companies and—importantly—in building legal cases.
The Personal Injury & Accident Law Center offers free case evaluations for car accident victims so you can feel confident that you’re getting the legal counsel you deserve. You can call us at (561)372-3800 or fill out the confidential form below to speak a team member about your car accident case.
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