man in car texting while driving about to have an accident

Whenever a friend of mine from another state would visit me in Florida and I would grab my cell phone while driving, they would be shocked that we had no laws that outlawed cell phone use while driving. It really blew them away when I told them texting while driving wasn’t a primary offense either (you would have had to be pulled over for another offense to receive a violation for texting while driving). Well, all of that changed as of July 1, 2019.

Florida finally got up to speed (no pun intended) and passed a ban on texting while driving that has some teeth. It is now officially a violation to text and drive while your car is moving. And yes, of course, that includes emailing, messaging, snap chatting and anything else you will try to claim you were doing instead of texting. Basically, you can’t manually type anything on your phone while driving.

Now, interestingly enough, the law makes clear that all of these prohibitions are while your car is moving. Meaning, if you are stopped waiting for a train to go by, you are free to text away. Crazy, I know. Not crazy in the sense that if you have a foot on the brake, you’re not really driving because the car is not moving. But crazy in that it’s an enormous change from the current DUI law where you can get a DUI if you are in the backseat taking a nap with the keys in your pocket and the car turned off. But I digress.

You can still operate your phone for navigation, receive weather and emergency reports and of course, talk on the phone (as long as you’re not in a school or construction zone where workers are present in which case you need to be hands-free). I hope you see where this is going. What a mess.

So now an officer is going to have to pull you over and listen to your excuses, I mean explanations of all the things you were doing on your phone that are legal to cover up the fact that you were just doing something illegal on your phone. And to make things more complicated, an officer cannot take your phone to see what you were doing without a warrant. You absolutely have the right to refuse to turn over your phone to a police officer who does not have a warrant.

So where does that leave us? Well on the positive side, anything that gets people to put their phone down while they are driving will no doubt save lives and countless accidents. I’m all for that. The other positive is that between now and January, the police will only be giving out warnings. However, that’s where the positives end.

Because now there is a law that allows the police to pull you over and accuse you of texting while driving without actually having proof that you were texting and driving. They will have to prove it in court, however. Sadly, there will be cases where the police use this new law as a pretext for pulling people over simply because they can. I’d love to think that in 2019, we don’t have police that would do things like that, but I watch the news enough to know better.

If you get pulled over after December, the fine will be $30 and a point will be put your license if you pay it the first time. If you’re caught again in the next 5 years, the fine goes up to $60 and 3 points will be put on your license. Obviously, before you do anything, you should give us a call at 866-374-8355. We’ve been helping Florida drivers avoid points and fines for over 25 years and handled over a million tickets. Just to be safe, reach out to us when you’re not driving.

man paying toll at toll plaza

As much as I love technology, I must say, there are some things that I miss. Do you remember tossing the coins in the bucket when you were about to enter a toll road.

Of course, back in the day it used to be a twenty-five cents, so it was either a quarter or if I was feeling lucky, I’d go for five nickels. It was kind of fun to toss it in and hope the light turned green.

As everyone knows, that quaint experience of rummaging through your ashtray to find loose change has now been replaced by your Sunpass device which is linked to your credit card.

All you have to do is keep on driving and the money magically disappears from your account and winds up in the State coffers. If you don’t have a SunPass account, no worries, the State will track you down via your tag and send you a bill in the mail.

All that sounds like progress. Except when . . .

Your credit card expired and you forgot to alert Sunpass?

Or when you moved and forgot to forward your mail.

Or you just don’t get all your mail because someone gets to your mailbox before you and throws out the “junk.”

Or when your ex-boyfriend or ex-spouse decides to cancel the account without telling you.

In a perfect world, having things done electronically is easier. However, it should be obvious by now, that we don’t all live in a perfect world and the reality is that people get tickets for things they aren’t even aware of. (Red Light Cameras are another one, but don’t get me started on those).

Now, because we are talking about the real world, I must point out that most people don’t go through one toll or Sunpass overpass. Usually, as part of your daily routine, you keep going through the toll lane assuming everything is fine.

And why wouldn’t you assume everything is fine? The State has taken away any kind of feedback to let you know everything is fine or that you have a problem. So, as I’m sure you’re now realizing, most people who get a Sunpass ticket don’t just get one, they get many.

By the time you even realize what is going on, you could have dozens. It really doesn’t take that long before you are in real hot water.

If you are reading this and nodding as you try to organize all the tickets you’ve just received, whatever you do, don’t run down to the courthouse and just pay them. You could be doing yourself a real disservice.

I know, they don’t carry points, so what’s the big deal?

Here’s the big deal.

You could not only be wasting thousands of dollars, but you could also be creating a huge driving record problem for yourself.

That’s right, each of these tickets is well over $100. You do the math, it’s expensive.

There is another solution.

Hiring a traffic attorney who can walk into court and fight on your behalf might allow you to only have to pay a very small percentage of these tickets. Instead of paying for 25 tickets, you might only have to pay for 5 or 10. So, in addition to the legal fee, you might be able to save thousands.

Don’t believe me? I do it all the time for our clients.

In addition to the savings you will receive by not paying every ticket, you won’t have as many tickets on your driving record. Believe me, it doesn’t look good when your insurance company or judge tries to look at your record, and the pages keep unfolding.

Lastly, you will save time and money by not having to attend the court hearing yourself. There are a few hours of your life right there.

The best part is when you have multiple tickets, you qualify for a discount. That is a plan made for toll or Sunpass tickets. Do yourself a favor and take advantage of the free consultation. Just call 866-374-8355 and you’re on your way.

HOV lane sign

We’ve all been there. Sitting alone in our cars, stuck on the highway in bumper to bumper traffic. One look in that empty lane on the left is usually all it takes. You look for an opening and go for it. You feel great, flying by all those “suckers” who aren’t moving. “Man, I should’ve done this sooner,” you say to yourself. And then . . .

Just when you thought you’d gotten away with it, the dreaded blue lights appear in your rearview mirror.

Well, it was fun while it lasted.

Chances are, you’re going to be receiving a ticket for violating the High Occupancy Vehicle lane (HOV lane).

What to do? What to do? (If you want to know what not to do, click here to read about a guy who stuck a mannequin in the car and ended up paying over $400 in fines.)

Well, the first thing you can do is try to learn a little about the law you’ve just been charged with breaking.

The HOV lane is pretty simple. There are designated lanes with restrictions on the minimum number of people that can be in the car during certain times, usually rush hour.

These lanes popped up when politicians thought that they could force us to carpool by taking away a lane of traffic and only making it available if we’d ask a complete stranger to ride with us.

Because it became obvious that no one was using these lanes to carpool to and from work, and the environmental movement took hold, many of these HOV lanes have been opened up to single passengers who drive hybrid or electric vehicles as well. But like I was saying at the beginning of this article, that HOV lane is almost always empty and is just one giant temptation for the rest of us in a hurry who are trying to get home.

So we take the gamble that we won’t get caught by dipping in the lane “for a second” and have every intention of joining the slow lane, but end up telling the officer that “the other cars wouldn’t let me in.”

In Florida, getting an HOV lane ticket may or may not carry points. It all depends on how the ticket was written. Believe it or not, you can get cited for violating Florida Statute 316.0741 (the actual HOV Lane Statute) and not have to worry about points on your license if you pay the ticket; or you can be cited with violating Florida Statute 316.074(1), in which case you would get points on your license if you paid your ticket.

Confused yet? I don’t blame you.

The confusion often is made worse when clients call our office and say they got an HOV lane ticket and want to know if it carries points. When we ask them to read the statute on the ticket, they say, “Three one six dot zero seven four one” regardless if there was a parenthesis between the 4 and the 1. Yet, this parenthesis makes the difference between points and no points.

The explanation is as follows:

Florida Statute 316.074(1) is a generic statute used for violation of a traffic control device. Technically, anything could be a traffic control device. It doesn’t have to be a stop sign or red light. So some officers use this statute to cite drivers who violate the HOV lane sign restriction. If your ticket has this statute, and you pay it, you will get points on your license. In other words, don’t just pay it.

Florida Statute 316.0741 is the actual statute for HOV lane tickets and believe it or not, it does not carry points. Now, this doesn’t mean you should just go and pay it, because it will leave a mark on your driving record which can come back to haunt you when you least expect it.

You will have to weigh the benefit of fighting the ticket vs. the cost of paying it. Many times it’s worth it to fight a ticket that does not carry points, but sometimes it’s not.

If you have an HOV lane ticket and want to talk to a traffic attorney who has been helping people since 1995 with all their traffic ticket needs, my office will be happy to give you a free consultation. Please call 866-374-8355. Just remember when you read us the statute, to include the parenthesis if you see one.

***UPDATE**** On August 15, 2013, I wrote a blog here, where I explained that the insurance companies were losing revenue because of “no point” tickets such as HOV and have started to raise insurance rates of those people who just paid the tickets as opposed to fighting them. Please read the article to better understand how to protect yourself.