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Can I Get a Ticket If I Use My Phone While Driving?

Newly enforced laws have led to confusion in Tampa Bay regarding cell phone use while driving.

Can I hold my phone while driving?

If a cop sees me on my phone, will I get a ticket?

I swear I wasn’t texting – just looking at directions! Shouldn’t that matter?

Mickey Keenan P.A. answers these commonly asked questions (and others) about what can happen now if you drive while holding your phone in Tampa.

What Is the New Cell Phone Law?

The bottom line? Texting while driving is illegal. In May of 2019, Gov. Ron DeSant is passed a law which makes it a primary offense for a person to:

“Operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of non voice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, emailing and instant messaging.”

Additionally, a driver must use a hands-free device while driving in designated areas such as school and construction zones.

Can I Hold the Phone to Talk while Driving?

Yes, you are allowed to hold the phone while driving UNLESS you are driving in a school zone or an active construction work zone where workers are present.

You can use blue-tooth or a hands-free device to talk on your phone in these designated areas. Please note: If you are using a hands-free device, you must have one ear clear of an earbud.

If I’m Driving and Someone Calls, Can I Tap the Button to Answer My Phone?

Yes, if driving on regular roads. In a school zone or construction zone, you can tap the button to answer but cannot physically hold the phone after answering.

Can I Text while at a Stoplight or Tollbooth?

Law enforcement can only stop a driver for texting while the car is in motion. However, a ticket can be issued if the driver is impeding the flow of traffic and is distracted by the phone. Our personal injury attorney suggests you wait until stopped to text. This saves you from a ticket and helps prevent accidents.

I Was Unaware of the New Texting Laws. Is There a Warning Period if I Get Pulled Over?

There is an education period of warnings for all violations held until January 1, 2020. This means, if you are pulled over by law enforcement for violating the cell phone law, you will receive a warning which will not be put on your driving record.

What Are the Penalties for Violating the New Cell Law?

Effective January 1, 2020, law enforcement can and will issue a citation for violating the Tampa cell phone law. For a first offense, you can opt to complete a wireless communications device driving safety program. Once complete, the clerk will waive the points and any costs associated with the citation. The base fine for a first offense is $30 plus court costs and fees. The second violation within five years is a base fine of $60 plus court costs and fees.

Are There Exceptions to the New Law?

Yes, law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical personnel are exempt. If you are reporting criminal activity or an emergency to the police, you can use a handheld device – even in a school or construction zone.

Lastly, when you receive messages for navigating or operating your vehicle (Google Maps, Waze,etc.) or safety alerts such as weather or traffic emergency information, the distracted driving ban does not apply.

Call Mickey Keenan P.A.

Distracted driving is a big cause of accidents, injury, and even wrongful death in Tampa Bay. Stay safe and put the phone away while driving. Call us today.