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.

No u turn sign

We’ve all been there. Not exactly sure where we’re going, looking on both sides of the street for an address, and when we spot it, it’s on the other side of the street and we’re going in the opposite direction away from it.

And, of course, we’re late.

What to do?

You quickly weigh your options, look around and decide to do it.

An Illegal U-turn.

As you sit waiting for the cars to pass so you can turn, you again take a quick look around, and turn the wheel as fast as you can hoping not to get caught.

But, I ask you, do you know if the U-turn you just made was legal or illegal? Do you know how to tell the difference?

In actuality, in Florida, it’s fairly easy to tell. Most U-turns are, in fact, legal.

Here’s what you need to know.

The Florida Statute on U-turns is 316.1515 and it’s very short and easy to read.

Basically, what it says is that you can make a turn in the opposite direction (a U-turn), on any street, as long as it can be made safely and without interfering with the other traffic.

However, there is also one additional thing to consider.

You have to make sure there is no sign saying that you cannot make a U-turn. Sometimes they use fancy language and say things like “U-turn Prohibited” and sometimes it’s a picture of an arrow in the direction of the U-turn you are about to make along with one of those red circles with the line through it, made famous from the movie Ghostbusters.

At any rate, the sign is really the main thing to look out for. No sign, you should be OK, as long as you do it safely and don’t get in anyone’s way. Watch out for pedestrians as well. Sometimes, they are walking along and don’t expect a car to make a U-turn.

The worst thing to happen, is that you get the ticket for making an illegal U-turn. Not only will you be even later to your appointment, but if you don’t fight the ticket and just pay it, you will end up with points on your license.

As a reader of this blog, you know how I feel about just paying a ticket and taking points (hint: always fight your tickets).

If you received a ticket for an illegal U-turn and want to fight it with a traffic attorney whose law firm has fought over 500,000 tickets, feel free to call 866-374-8355.