Woman talking on phone while driving with her kid in the backseat

Is is Legal to Talk on My Cell Phone While Driving?

Florida’s new texting law has created some confusion, but driving while talking on your cell phone is perfectly legal in Florida. In fact, it might surprise you to learn that it is even legal for your child’s school bus driver and even brand new drivers to talk on their cell phones and drive! This is illegal in many other states and it might be a good idea for Florida to follow suit based on some of the statistics and facts regarding driving while talking on your phone.

Although for most of us the question regarding whether a bus driver or a 16-year-old should be allowed to do this is fairly simple, the real question becomes – should you do it? We’ve all seen drivers with cell phones glued to their ears changing lanes too closely, rolling through stop signs, or simply not driving well at all. One of the biggest causes of accidents in Florida is distracted drivers due to cell phones.

First, a Few Statistics

  • In 2011, at least 23% of all auto collisions in the United States involved the use of cell phones. (TXTNG Kills)
  • You are up to 3 times more likely to have an accident while operating a cell phone – 28 times more likely if you are texting! (TXTNG Kills)
  • 69% of drivers in the United States ages 18-64 reported that they had talked on their cell phone while driving within the 30 days before they were surveyed. (CDC Distracted Driving Study)
  • 48% of young drivers have seen their parents drive while talking on a cell phone. (TXTNG Kills)
  • 16% of all distracted driving crashes involving drivers under 20 (Distraction.gov)
  • Research indicates that hands-free devices may not do that much to help avoid accidents – drivers still miss important visual and audio cues that would help avoid crashes. (Distraction.gov)

Technology to Limit Cell Phone Use While Driving

The following technology is available for parents who wish to monitor or restrict their kids’ cell phone use while driving. But it can also be very useful to help the adults form new habits as well!

  • DriveCam – This monitors a driver’s activity and provides real-time feedback with video
  • AT&T Drive Mode App – This is a free anti-texting and driving mobile app for Android and Blackberry

Florida Highway Patrol Tips

You probably want to avoid getting issued a traffic ticket so you can keep your driver’s license in good standing. Here in Florida, you can be issued a ticket if you are a distracted driver and break road rules, or worse, cause an accident.

The most important thing to remember – make safe driving your top priority. If you are easily distracted while talking on your cell phone or have children who are soon-to-be-drivers watching, then you probably shouldn’t use your phone at all while driving. After all how are you going to explain to them that talking on your cell phone is a bad idea if they’ve watched you do it their entire lives? If you are behind the wheel and get a call, just let it ring. If it is important, the caller will leave a message. If you find yourself suddenly needing to place a call, pull over and stop your car first. This ensures that you and everyone in your car are safe, and it sets a good example for those watching. As a bonus, consider car-time with your kids and teenagers a good time to connect with each other.

The Florida Highway Patrol, who sees the results of distracted driving every day, has created “Cell Phone Tips for Drivers”. The points that follow are a summary of their advice.

Stay Focused on the Road

If you are expecting a call or plan to place a call while you are driving, make preparations before you enter traffic. It pretty much goes without saying, that you shouldn’t take notes or look up phone numbers while driving. Make use of the speed dial options on your phone and make sure any calls you will be making are entered into your phone in advance. It is a good idea to install a Hands-Free Cell Phone Car Kit to avoid taking your hands off the wheel while driving.

Limit Your Conversation

A cell phone can sure be useful in an emergency and there is no question that it is also convenient. You just have to have one flat tire to realize how inconvenient it would be not to have that cell phone. However, this benefit can be abused. People who engage in long and involved conversations while driving are just asking for trouble. It is very difficult to concentrate on everything that should be a priority while driving if you are also trying to make vacation plans or comfort a friend in the hospital. Finally, never engage in emotional or stressful conversations while driving. These can distract or even impair your driving ability just like alcohol or prescription drugs. It is always best to pull over.

Use Common Sense

Determine if it is safe to talk on your cell phone. In other words, if there are any hazardous conditions, like an unsafe road, construction, heavy traffic, or severe weather, don’t use your phone. It is simply not worth risking a crash…or your life!

If you must use your cell phone while driving — The Florida Highway Patrol wants you to keep these things in mind.

  • Know your phone and its features.
  • Use a hands-free device if possible.
  • Make sure your phone is within easy reach.
  • Keep phone usage to emergencies or important calls while driving.

Although talking on a cell phone while driving is legal in Florida, it can result in a traffic ticket if you break a road rule. And if you cause an accident, the cost can be significantly more than a traffic ticket. Keep your driver's license in good status, keep yourself and your loved ones safe, and set a good example for future drivers – Use your cell phone for emergencies only when behind the wheel!

As practicing accident attorneys, Ayres Cluster Law understands too well the dangers of texting while driving. We believe the new texting ban in Florida is a step in the right direction, but tougher laws could save more lives. Meanwhile, we encourage all to take the step to eliminate texting while driving, and also to remember – drive defensively knowing there are distracted drivers still on our Florida roads.

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