What you need to know about new texting while driving law

Wireless Communications While Driving Law effective beginning Monday

By Samantha Bryant - Reporter

MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, Fla. - Before you reach for that phone in the car, you better think twice. Starting Monday, law enforcement officers can pull drivers over solely for texting while driving, thanks to a new law passed by the Florida Legislature.

It's called the Wireless Communications While Driving Law.

Some have dubbed it the Texting Law, which makes it a primary offense to use your phone while driving, period. That includes calls and holding your phone, as well. 

"We recommend using one of those holders that will hold your phone still, so you don't have to reach for it. Using things like Bluetooth technology, you can have a voice control," Florida Highway Patrol spokesman Alex Camacho said. 

Camacho said distracted driving remains one of the major causes for traffic accidents, and they are hoping the law will drive home this message:

"It can wait. Wait until you get to your destinations to make the call. If you don't have that technology available for you, it can wait," Camacho said. 

While the new law is effective beginning Monday, Camacho said troopers and officers will be issuing warning citations until Jan. 1 as a grace period.

The citation amount varies per county.

Below is the full explanation of the Wireless Communications While Driving Law:

Effective July 1, 2019, law enforcement officers are authorized to stop vehicles and issue citations to drivers for texting while driving pursuant to FSS 316.305(3)(a), which states:

"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 a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging.

"As used in this section, the term 'wireless communications device' means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner, that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15 and that allows text communications.

"Some exceptions apply. The law does not apply to vehicles that are stationary or to a driver who is:
- Performing official duties, such as operating an emergency vehicle (i.e., law enforcement, fire service professionals, and emergency medical service providers).
- Reporting an emergency, a crime or other suspicious activity to law enforcement.
- Receiving messages that are:
a. related to the operation and/or navigation of the motor vehicle; b. safety-related information (emergency, traffic, and weather alerts); c. data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or d. radio broadcasts.
- Using the device in a hands-free manner for navigation purposes.
- Using the device in a way that does not require manual entry of characters, except to initiate a function or feature."

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