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Distracted driving and Florida law

As times have changed in recent years, if you are involved in any type of car accident, pedestrian knockdown, bus or truck collision, it's become commonplace to hear the query of whether or not the at-fault driver was distracted. But what exactly does that mean in Florida?

The law says that no person may operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device. Also specifically prohibited is the sending or reading of data on such a device for non-voice, interpersonal communication. Simply put, this statute is the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law.

A wireless communications device refers to any handheld apparatus designed to receive or transmit texts, emails or instant messages, access or store data, or connect to the internet or other communication service. A stopped vehicle isn't subject to these provisions. Also excluded are emergency or law enforcement personnel performing official duties. Reporting an emergency, criminal or suspicious activity to police is exempt, as is receiving navigation messages such as from a GPS device. Hands-free communicating isn't prohibited.

Countless numbers of drivers appear to be choosing to disregard the no-texting law, as victims of accidents proven to be caused by a distracted driver can attest. The law also provides that if such a crash results in death or personal injury, a user's billing records for a wireless communications device or investigating officers' written statements may be admissible in court.

The intent of the law is to improve roadway safety for everyone. Most people recognize, however, that while texting and driving is extremely popular, it isn't by any means the only type of distraction to which drivers are susceptible. An involved conversation, eating and drinking and monitoring children can be just as dangerous to others. Whatever the cause, accident victims may be able to improve their recoveries when distracted drivers are held accountable, and they are supported by this type of law.

Source: The Florida Senate, "2013 Florida Statutes" accessed Jan. 28, 2015

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