FLORIDA - A bill awaiting Governor Rick Scott's signature would finally ban texting and driving in Florida. But, with all types of wireless technology, questions arose as to what's legal and what's not. We read HB 13 from top to bottom to help clear up what drivers could expect. And, along the way, we found plenty of drivers exercising their freedom to text behind the wheel.
For some drivers, texting while driving has become as habitual as listening to the radio. One signature will change that. Florida HB 13 outlaws the use of "wireless communications devices" while driving. That's "any handheld device" that can receive or transmit text messages, access or store data or connect to the internet.
What isn't allowed? Simply put, it will be illegal to manually type, text, or e-mail while the vehicle is in motion, not at 35 miles per hour, not even 5 miles per hour. In just 15 minutes, we spotted at least half a dozen drivers on McGregor Boulevard texting. It will be a secondary offense, so police could only enforce the law if they stop the driver for another violation, such as speeding.
Here's what will still be allowed:
--if you're stuck in a traffic jam or stopped at a red light, as long as the vehicle is not in motion, it will be legal to text. Just make sure you put the phone down when traffic starts moving.
--reporting emergencies, suspicious or criminal activity to law enforcement
--getting emergency safety, traffic or weather alerts
--using a device or system for navigation
--different types of speech-to-text communication that don't require you to type, only to activate the function.
Most drivers we spotted were talking on cell phones. That would still be legal. But remember, if you dial the numbers while driving, that won't be.
Penalties vary from a $30 first-time offense to 6 points on your license if you're texting and crash. Once signed, it will go into effect October 1st. So, if you need to break the habit, you have 5 months.