Consequences of Using Your Cell Phone While Driving in Florida

The consequences of using a cell phone while driving in Florida will depend on several factors, including how you used your phone, where the use occurred, and whether you caused a car accident. Depending on the answers to these questions, you could suffer injuries, bear the liability for any damage you cause, and face criminal prosecution.

Florida’s laws regarding cell phone use while driving are complex. Even when the use of your phone contributes to the cause of a crash, you may present mitigating factors that excuse your use or reduce the consequences you face.

How Cell Phone Use Affects Driving

Cell phones are one of the most common forms of distraction. According to the Florida Crash Facts Report, Florida had over 9,700 distracted driving crashes involving cell phone use in 2021. These crashes caused:

  • 20 fatal injuries
  • 125 incapacitating injuries that required an ambulance for the accident victim
  • 842 visible but non-incapacitating injuries
  • 1,964 possible injuries that were not visible but caused pain or other symptoms

Distractions involve anything that takes a driver’s hands, eyes, or mind from driving. Cell phones can cause all three types of distractions.

Texting or talking on the phone can take your hands off the wheel if you use a handset. Even if your phone is connected to an in-vehicle display, you may still need to touch the screen to select, send, scroll, or input other commands. Hands-free systems can eliminate these manual distractions.

Using the phone can also take your eyes off the road. Visual distractions prevent you from spotting road, weather, or traffic hazards. A collision can injure you or other road users, including pedestrians, cyclists, or motorists.

Mental distractions are the most difficult to avoid. Studies show that hands-free devices do not eliminate mental or cognitive distractions. In other words, even when you eliminate the manual part of cell phone use, cell phones still cause the same level of cognitive distraction. As a consequence, hands-free systems are nearly as dangerous as handsets.

Consequences of Driving While Using a Cell Phone

The consequences you’ll face from using a cell phone while driving differ depending on what happened and what the results were. 

Florida law prohibits drivers from texting while driving. Specifically, the law prohibits the use of an electronic device while driving to:

  • Type or enter letters, numbers, or symbols
  • Read data for purposes of non-voice communication

This law applies to all drivers on all roads in all circumstances except:

  • Police officers, firefighters, and EMTs, while performing official duties
  • Drivers contacting the police
  • Drivers reading safety, navigation, or weather messages
  • Drivers manually activating a hands-free system
  • Drivers activating a driverless vehicle

A second law prohibits both texting and talking on a handheld device while driving in a school or work zone. This law has the same exceptions as the texting-while-driving law.

These laws create some legal consequences for using a cell phone while driving in Florida. But you can also face other consequences. Some consequences you can face by texting while driving include:

Injuries to You and Others

You can cause a collision while using your cell phone. Distracted driving crashes often take the form of:

Rear-end collisions cause the occupants of both vehicles to whip back and forth violently. These forces can cause whiplash injuries such as:

Intersection crashes are often side-impact crashes. These are particularly dangerous because seat belts and frontal airbags cannot protect the occupants when their vehicle gets hit from the side. Worse yet, a side impact can cause the door to collapse, producing crush injuries to the limbs, head, chest, or abdomen.

Pedestrians and bicyclists have no protection in a collision. Even if the distracted driver does not get injured in a crash, they can injure or kill a vulnerable road user.

Criminal Consequences

First-time violations of Florida’s texting-while-driving law get punished as non-moving violations. The fine for a non-moving violation in Pinellas County is $116.

Second offenses of the texting-while-driving law and all violations of the hands-free law for school and work zones get punished as moving violations. The current fine for a moving violation in Pinellas County is $166. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) can also add three points to the driver’s record.

As an alternative, judges can sentence violators of the school and work zone law to a wireless device class. And the clerk has the option of dismissing the citation if the driver proves they bought a hands-free system.

If a driver using a cell phone causes a crash that injures or kills a motorist, pedestrian, or cyclist, prosecutors could charge them with reckless driving. This violation happens when a driver acts with willful or wanton disregard for the safety of people or property. Cell phone use by itself or combined with other dangerous actions, like speeding, could increase the likelihood of charges.

Civil Consequences

Civil liability falls on negligent drivers. Negligence means the driver failed to exercise reasonable care.

Cell phone use is well-known as a distraction. Using these devices, even in hands-free mode, can impair you almost as severely as alcohol. To prove negligence, an accident victim must show the driver knew or should have known the danger they created. In a cell phone case, there is ample evidence available to the driver about the dangers of talking or texting while driving.

A driver liable for a crash must pay for the damages they caused. This can include:

These damages depend on the severity and duration of the accident victim’s injuries.

Avoiding the Consequences of Electronics Use While Driving

The simplest way to avoid these consequences is to refrain from using your cell phone while driving. But some people simply cannot do that. So a second option is to use a hands-free system with the knowledge that it will still distract the driver and potentially expose them to all of these consequences.

Contact the Pinellas County Car Accident Law Firm Of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers for Help

For more information, please contact the Clearwater and St. Petersburg car accident law firm of Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers at the nearest location to schedule a free consultation today.

We serve in Pinellas County and its surrounding areas:

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers – Clearwater
1875 N Belcher Rd. STE 201,
Clearwater, FL 33765,
United States
(727) 796-8282

Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes Personal Injury Lawyers – St. Petersburg
2560 1st Ave S,
St. Petersburg, FL 33712,
United States
(727) 349-1728