Cerabino: My Q&A on texting-and-driving is a moving violation

Dec 15, 2017
Frank Cerabino

News item: State lawmakers are considering a bill that would make Florida join 41 other states that classify texting-while-driving a primary offense, which allows law enforcement officers to stop vehicles and write citations to texting drivers who are not breaking any other traffic laws.

Under current Florida law, drivers may be cited for texting-while-driving only if they are being cited for breaking another traffic law.

I am here to answer your questions.

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Can I still drive while eating a Taco Bell cheesy gordita crunch?

Yes. Florida Senate Bill 90 does not address driving while eating.

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How about manscaping?

Not addressed in the bill.

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I’ve got some Ikea furniture …

Watch out for those little wooden dowel pins. If they get between the seat and the console, they’re tough to remove.

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Can I still hold a cellphone in one hand while driving on I-95 and occasionally gesticulating wildly with my other hand during an animated conversation on the phone?

Yes. This is a texting-while-driving bill. It doesn’t cover anything else you do behind the wheel with your phone.

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Are Florida lawmakers doing this because Florida drivers are the worst?

No. Florida drivers are not the worst when it comes to texting-while-driving, according to the most recent EverDrive Safe Driving Report.

Please don’t say that. Louisiana is the worst state for texting-and-driving.

Florida is 49th.

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If Florida drivers are so bad, why haven’t we done this sooner?

Lawmakers came close four years ago. There was a bill then to make texting-while-driving a primary traffic offense, but it got downgraded to a secondary offense.

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So this may not happen?

Remember, you’re in a state that told motorcyclists their helmets were no longer required.

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So in this new proposed law, how about just a little texting? Is that OK?

The texting law bans driving a motor vehicle “while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device.”

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So, it’s multiple letters, symbols or other characters. That means it’s cool if I just send my boo one eggplant emoji with nothing else, right?

Probably not. The law also says you can’t drive while “sending or reading data … for the purpose of non-voice interpersonal communication.”

I believe the transmission of an eggplant emoji counts as sending interpersonal, nonverbal communication.

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Does this mean that if I’m texting some stuff while driving, the cop who pulls me over gets to read what’s on my phone? If so, let me know, because I’ve got a lot of um, er … candid anatomy photos and … ahem … business transactions I need to delete.

The bill requires that the law enforcement officer who has stopped you for texting-while-driving must inform you that you have the right to decline a search of your cellphone.

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What if I’m driving while lost?

For most drivers in Florida, that’s just called “driving.” Therefore, there is an exception in the bill to permit using a cellphone for navigation purposes.

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So, will getting a ticket for this be a moving violation with points on my driver license?

No. Even though your vehicle has to be moving, it is considered a nonmoving $30 violation. Unless you’ve had a prior texting-while-driving ticket during the past five years. Then it’s a moving violation.

And there are no points unless your use of the phone causes a crash.

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What about texting at a red light?

You will still be allowed to text while your vehicle is stopped on a roadway. Which in many cases will be well beyond the point where the left-turn light has turned green and all the drivers behind you are honking their horns at you.

But you’re not paying attention because you’re texting. And now they will miss the short green light because you are sitting there stopped in the turning lane when you could be going.

And what’s worse, you will probably go, just as the light is turning yellow, meaning that you will get through the light, but not the three or four cars behind you, which could have gone if you weren’t texting.

Yes, that will all still happen.

And probably more so because now you will be texting less while your car is moving.