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A Possible Change in the Law Would Allow Floridians to be Pulled Over for Texting While Driving

Texting while driving is currently considered a "secondary offense," which means that police may only issue a citation for texting while driving after initiating a traffic stop for a violation of a "primary offense" law, like speeding. Historically, texting while driving, by itself, could not be the basis for a traffic stop. However, many residents have been pressuring the legislature to make a change. As a result, a bill was recently introduced to the legislature to amend the texting while driving statute.

The amended statute allows for primary enforcement if the driver of the vehicle in question is eighteen years old or younger. So, texting while driving can thus be a legal basis for a traffic stop if the driver is eighteen years of age or younger. Otherwise, the statute can still only be enforced as a secondary offense after the driver has been stopped for a primary offense.

Although the bill died in the committee, legislators will try again, and change may be looming. Of the 47 states that ban texting while driving, Florida is one of only four which don't allow primary enforcement. Secondary offenses have become primary offenses before, most notably failure to wear a seatbelt, which prior to June 30, 2009 had been a secondary offense, but which now can be the sole basis for a valid traffic stop. It would not be surprising to see texting while driving follow a similar route and eventually become a primary offense down the road.

Note that the texting while driving statute prohibits not only texting while driving, but also any use of a wireless communication device for "nonvoice interpersonal communication" which involve manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters. While this means that other forms of communication such as e-mailing or instant messaging are prohibited, it also means that talking on the phone, or giving a voice command to a phone in your hand, is not. 

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