You’re driving home from school when your phone buzzes. You set it on the seat next to you, knowing it was dangerous to use it while you drove. But that buzz means a text message came in. At the next red light, you reach over and grab it.
It’s important. You think you can respond to your friend before the light turns green, but you don’t quite make it. You finish up the message as you start driving away with the rest of the traffic. When you look up, there’s a police car right next to you.
As you get that sinking feeling in your gut, you start wondering exactly what the texting and driving penalties look like in Florida.
A secondary offense
Texting and driving, under Florida law, is not a primary offense. It’s a secondary offense. That’s more lenient than most other states.
However, it can still lead to points on your license, which could eventually mean that you lose that license entirely via a suspension. How long will that take?
For the first offense, you don’t have to worry. You won’t get any points. The officer may talk to you and tell you about the danger you’re putting everyone in, but you are no closer to losing your license.
Typically, texting and driving is just a way to increase the points you get for some other infraction that is a primary offense. For instance, if you get pulled over for speeding in a school zone, you could get another two points. How close to home were you when you picked up the phone, and how fast were you going?
If you crash, that’s when you really get hammered by the additional texting points. You’ll get six of them. If the crash was also caused by things like speeding and failing to stop at a red light, you could rack up quite a few points in no time.
One key thing to note is that lawmakers are mulling a bill that, if passed into law, would drastically change the texting and driving laws. The bill would make it a primary offense instead of a secondary offense.
Right now, police add points when they have other reasons to pull you over. If you made no mistakes, that police car next to you isn’t going to turn on the lights and siren for texting alone.
If this bill passes, the officer wouldn’t need another reason. He or she could pull you over with the phone in your hand. A full 43 other states have already passed similar laws.
When dealing with any traffic violations, you absolutely need to know your rights. This is especially true with texting and driving as lawmakers consider these significant changes.