By Marcus Fernandez
Miles of beaches, countless family attractions, and unsurpassed weather are only a few reasons why people flock to Florida. Whether you live here or are just passing through, understanding Florida roadway laws is essential for keeping everyone safe.
Texting or talking while driving
According to the most recent statistics compiled by the state, distracted driving causes more than 50,000 accidents in Florida each year. These accidents resulted in 220 fatalities and severe injuries to more than 3,000 people. Florida roadway laws prohibit texting while driving, one of the major causes of driver distraction.
The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law makes it a moving violation to operate a vehicle while typing, reading or sending data on any handheld device. The ban on texting applies to composing or reading emails as well.
While many might state that such a law is common sense, it has met with some criticism. Specifically, critics have argued that officers are limited in how they can enforce it. For instance, a police officer can observe you texting while driving and be unable to issue you a ticket. While this may appear odd, it is the result of the legislature classifying texting as a secondary offense. A motorist can only receive a ticket for texting if he or she is also observed committing another primary traffic offense. This can include speeding, failing to stop or not signaling a turn or lane change.
There is a bill now pending in the state legislature to amend Florida law make texting while driving a primary offense. The proposed law would also address the issue of people driving while talking on their cell phones. Current law does not require the use of a hands-free device when making or receiving calls while driving. Holding your cellphone to talk while driving would be illegal if Florida passes the proposed legislation.
Move Over Law
In December, Florida Highway Patrolman Mithil Patel was assisting at an accident scene when the unexpected happened. Dashboard video shows he and a driver standing roadside as a car comes careening towards them. The fast-acting officer reacts quickly and pushes the citizen to safety. Fortunately for Patel, he did not suffer serious injuries and was released from the hospital.
The accident served as a reminder of Florida’s Move Over Law. There were 231 accidents last year on Florida roads caused by motorists failing to obey the law and move over or slow down when for emergency vehicles. The Move Over Law applies when emergency vehicles are approaching or have stopped on the side of the road with their lights displayed.
If emergency vehicles are approaching, drivers must pull to the curb, stop and remain there until the vehicles pass. If emergency vehicles are stopped on the side of the road, drivers must move out of the lane closest to the vehicles. Finally, if a driver cannot vacate their lane, the Move Over Law requires they slow to at least 20 mph below the designated speed limit. A little-known fact is that the law also applies when approaching a sanitation truck, utility vehicle or tow truck. If one is stopped and its amber flashing lights activated, it is considered to be actively performing services. As such, drivers should move over and avoid these working vehicles.
Failing to obey the law is a moving violation. Guilty drivers can be fined and have three points assessed against their driving record. Additionally, their driver’s license can be suspended for accumulating 12 or more points within a year.
Pedestrians that fail to yield to an emergency vehicle can also receive a ticket from law enforcement. The Move Over Law requires pedestrians crossing the street to yield to approaching emergency vehicles displaying sirens, lights or a combination.
Traffic light and stop sign violations
Cars approaching a red traffic light or a stop sign must come to a full and complete stop. Additionally, the automobile must stop at the marked line indicating or before entering a crosswalk. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, more than 50 percent of crashes that result in injuries or fatalities occur at intersections. Rolling through a turn at a red traffic light or stop sign can have deadly consequences.
State law allows local municipalities to use automated systems to catch red-light violators. Cameras triggered by a vehicle entering an intersection on a red traffic signal take pictures of offending vehicles. Violators receive a violation notice within 30 days of the offense. They can view the photograph and video to help decide whether they wish to contest the violation.
Florida imposes zero tolerance policy for young drivers
Driving while your blood-alcohol level is .08 percent or more as measured by a blood or breath sample is a violation of state law prohibiting driving under the influence. Drivers guilty of their first offense can be sentenced for up to six months in jail and fined up to $1,000. If the driver is under 21 years of age, the law is even tougher.
Drivers younger than 21 are subject to a zero tolerance policy as far as alcohol is concerned. The blood-alcohol limit for young drivers is only .02 percent. In addition to penalties that might be levied by the court, the state can suspend the driver’s license of a young driver. A first offense can result in a 6-month suspension. A subsequent offense can result in the driver losing their license for 12 months.
In an accident because another driver violated Florida roadway laws
Failure to obey Florida roadway laws can lead to dangerous consequences. If you’ve been in an accident as a result of someone’s negligence, contact an experienced Tampa Bay personal injury lawyers. Our attorneys will carefully review the circumstances of the violations that led to your accident to determine if you have a case.