Advertisement
  1. News
  2. /
  3. Transportation

Answering your questions about Florida’s texting while driving law

Yes, you can text at a red light. But make sure to put your phone down while passing through a school or work zone.
The warning period is up. Law enforcement officers can now issue tickets carrying $60 penalties for texting while driving in any location and for even holding a phone in school and work zones. [Archive]
The warning period is up. Law enforcement officers can now issue tickets carrying $60 penalties for texting while driving in any location and for even holding a phone in school and work zones. [Archive]
Published Jan. 1

Florida drivers who still haven’t broken the habit of texting while driving face additional consequences in the new year now that Florida Highway Patrol troopers are writing tickets for the offense.

The law banning texting while driving in any location and holding a phone in school and work zones went into effect last summer. But troopers and other law enforcement officials took an education first approach and focused on awareness and issuing warnings in 2019.

That warning period ended today.

“We want to make sure people are paying attention to the road,” said Keyna Cory, editor of the group fldonttextanddrive.com. “We want the safest roads we can possibly have in Florida. We think the law that was passed will make significant change in people’s behaviors.”

Is holding my phone while driving a crime no matter what?

It depends where you are. Work zones and school zones are hands-free areas, which means cell phones, tablets and gaming systems are off limits. This section of the law, which that prohibits holding your phone while driving in these areas, is the part that goes into effect today. Previously, officers were only issuing warnings.

Can I get in trouble if I’m texting at a red light?

Nope. The bill does not apply to stationary vehicles, so if your vehicle is stopped at a red light or stuck in traffic, you can technically use your phone.

Can’t I just claim I was checking directions or the weather and get out of a ticket?

If you’re not in a school or work zone, holding a phone is okay if it’s for designated safety reasons — like navigation, checking weather or traffic alerts, and calling law enforcement to report criminal or suspicious activity.

This means that if you have a poor sense of direction, don’t worry — you’ll still be able to use your favorite GPS service without fear of being pulled over.

Does voice texting count?

As long as you’re not pressing buttons, you’re in the clear. Voice texting is allowed at all times, including in school and work zones. The goal of the law is to get people to put their phones down.

How strictly is this being enforced?

Law enforcement agencies across the state issued more than 1,200 citations for texting and driving from July 1 through Dec. 29. That’s an average of 18 per county during the six month period.

Issuing a citation isn’t so easy. It can be difficult to deduce exactly how a driver in the next car is using a phone, especially through tinted windows. And deputies have to keep their eyes on the road while they’re driving, too.

Even after an officer has seen enough to pull drivers over, they could argue they were using Google Maps or dialing a phone number.

Will the officer ask to see my phone? Do I have to show it?

Officers might ask, but they are also required to inform drivers of their rights to decline a search of their phones. Motorists don’t have to give their phones to officers without a warrant.

The one exception to this rule is if a crash results in death or injury. If that happens, a motorist’s cellphone billing records will be considered as admissible evidence.

If I do get a ticket, how much is it going to cost me?

Tickets issued for a first offense carry a $30 fine plus court costs, which could reach more than $100. The fine jumps to $60 for a second violation within five years.

Texting in a school or work zone will be a moving violation with three points on a driving record, plus a $60 fine.

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. The Toyota recall covers certain 2011-2019 Corollas, the 2011 to 2013 Matrix, the 2012 through 2018 Avalon and the 2013 to 2018 Avalon Hybrid in the U.S. Pictured is a 2013 Avalon Limited.
    The problem could affect as many as 12.3 million vehicles in the U.S. made by six companies.
  2. The area will be closed to drivers headed north and south from 6 a.m. to 9 a.m. through Friday.
  3. A scooter rider navigates Platt Street on Friday morning during the calm before the storm — successive weekends of downtown Gasparilla parades. Scooter companies like Jump warn users it’s a violation of their rental agreement to operate one while under the influence. [OCTAVIO JONES  |  Times]
    One company decided to pull its scooters Jan. 25 ‘out of an abundance of caution for riders and those participating in Gasparilla.’
  4. Delta Air Lines said Friday it will launch five new round-trip routes a day between Tampa and Miami starting May 4. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File) [MARK LENNIHAN  |  AP]
    Delta says the daily nonstop Miami service will create new connections for Tampa travelers to fly to Latin America and other international destinations.
  5. Tampa International Airport is building a new bike and pedestrian path that will loop around its under-construction SkyCenter office and hotel development and cell phone waiting lot. Eventually, that path is planned to connect to a network of regional biking and pedestrian trails. [Tampa International Airport]
    Tampa’s airport is the nation’s first to receive the designation from the nonprofit League of American Bicyclists. It was also the first to apply.
  6. In this photo from video, Delta Air Lines Flight 89 to Shanghai, China, dumps fuel over Los Angeles before returning to Los Angeles International Airport for an emergency landing Tuesday. Fuel dumped by the airliner making an emergency return Tuesday to the airport due to an engine problem fell onto three schools, causing minor irritation to 40 children and adults, officials said. (AP Photo/Matt Hartman) [MATT HARTMAN  |  AP]
    The fuel, described by fire officials as a vapor, caused minor skin and lung irritation to 56 children and adults but nobody was taken to the hospital.
  7. Draped against the St. Petersburg skyline on Tuesday evening on January 14, 2020, the Bella Vita is visible as it docks in Port St. Pete. The yacht is nearly 250 feet long and costs about $650,000 to charter for a week in the winter, according to broker Moran Yacht and Ship. It can accommodate 12 passengers between its six staterooms and six decks, and a staff of 22. [MARTHA ASENCIO RHINE  |  Times]
    Meet the Bella Vita, a yacht almost too luxurious to believe.
  8. Ridge Road in Pasco County currently ends at Moon Lake Road. [Tampa Bay Times]
    At a ground-breaking ceremony, officials laud a road more than 30 years in the making.
  9. Readers question who determines how long a traffic light will remain either red or green and what factors go into that decision in the latest Dr. Delay. [Tampa Bay Times]
    Who controls the timing of the lights in Tampa Bay? Dr. Delay gets some answers.
  10. Pinellas bus drivers carry tips on spotting signs of human trafficking under a new program called, "We are the Eyes Of The City." Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority buses also carry the anti-trafficking message, "See something, say something." [SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES]
    ‘Eyes on the city’ now include nearly 400 operators with the Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement