Effective July 1, 2019, texting while driving is a primary offense in Florida. Previously, texting while driving was a secondary offense; that is, you could only be cited for texting if you were pulled over for another primary violation such as speeding.

The new law also states drivers must use hands-free methods of using their phone in school zones and construction areas.

Drivers may still use hands-free methods to operate their cell phone for communication or GPS services. Texting or using your phone while at a stop sign or traffic light stop is allowed.

Florida isn’t the only state to make texting a primary offense. Laws making texting while driving a primary offense are present in 48 states, Washington D.C., Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The only states where it’s still a secondary offense are Nebraska, Ohio and South Dakota.

What is distracted driving?

Distracted driving is any activity that takes away your attention from driving, which includes talking or texting on your phone, eating or drinking in the car, and playing with the navigation or stereo. And I admit to being guilty to all of these things at one point or another while driving. 

3 types of distracted driving

  1. Manual - Taking your hands off the wheel
  2. Visual - Looking away from the road
  3. Cognitive - Thinking about anything other than driving

Examples of distracted driving activities

  • Applying makeup in the car
  • Playing with the stereo
  • Talking on the phone
  • Eating or drinking in the car
  • Adjusting your car settings (mirrors, seats)

Studies show that reading or sending a text while driving can take your eyes off the road for as long as five seconds. The latest data from The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) found that in 2017 there were 2,921 crashes with fatalities.

Of those, there were 234 fatal crashes caused by distracted drivers.

The latest Traffic Safety Culture Index from AAA presented drivers with various distracted driving activities and asked, “How dangerous do you feel the following driving behaviors are?” Almost 79% of the respondents said they felt reading the phone while driving was extremely dangerous. That’s similar to the 78% that felt drinking enough alcohol to put you over the legal limit was extremely dangerous.

Applying makeup in the car is an example of distracted driving.

The cost of texting while driving in Florida

The new Florida distracted driving law was put in effect July 1, but only warnings will be given until January 1, 2020, when officers can begin writing citations.

After that, if you get pulled over for texting texting while driving, the offense will result in a $30 fine. Get pulled over again and that fine doubles to $60. Court costs and fees would also apply, and points will be added to your driver’s license.

Higher car insurance nothing to LOL about

But it’s not just distracted driving and car accidents that are on the rise these days. So is your car insurance. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) notes that auto insurance premiums have increased 16% nationally since 2011.

Zendrive, a traffic and driving analytics company, released their third annual Distracted Driving Study and found most drivers are “phone addicts.” These super phone-users admit to ignoring the road 28% of the time they’re driving.

If you are involved in a car accident - even if it’s not a result of distracted driving - you may find your premium jump. One car insurance providers’s website notes that “an at-fault accident can increase your rate by an average of 41% countrywide.” Ouch!

Safe driving equals savings

To help encourage safe driving, many car insurance companies offer good-driver discounts along with several other auto insurance discounts.

Avoid sending that “BRB” text and keep your driving record clean. Staying accident-free on the road can earn you serious discounts on your premium.

Safe driver discounts

  • Geico - Staying accident-free for five years could earn you a discount up to 26%.
  • Progressive - Score up to a 31% discount if you keep traffic violations and accidents off your driving record for three years.
  • State Farm - Get a 5% discount just for enrolling in State Farm’s “Drive Safe & Save” program, then earn an ongoing discount up to 30%.
  • Travelers - Keeping a clean driving record for three years gets you up to a 10% discount. A five-year clean record discount jumps to 23%.
  • USAA - Enroll in their “SafePilot” program and get a 5% discount, then up to 20% for ongoing enrollment.

Even if you were involved in an accident while distracted driving, you may get lucky. Many insurance companies offer accident forgiveness to those involved in an accident for the first time, or for the first time after several years.  

Not every insurer will advertise the discounts they offer. Take a look at your policy for what discounts you have now, and then ask them about any other discounts you may be eligible for. More importantly, keep your eyes on the road!

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