You may be wondering why an article about the new Florida statute banning texting while driving is being featured on a banking law blog. Admittedly, texting does not have much to do with banking, but the new law should be of interest to anyone who has ever felt the temptation to type a quick text message or e-mail from behind the wheel.

According to a recent study by the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety, two-thirds of drivers admit to texting or e-mailing while driving. This is dangerous because a texting driver does not look at or pay attention to the road for several seconds at a time. Last year alone, over 4,500 car accidents in Florida were attributed to texting while driving and the real number is probably much higher.

To reduce deaths, injuries, and accidents caused by texting drivers, Florida recently joined the majority of states that ban texting while driving.  The new law prohibits texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging on a phone or any “wireless communications device” while operating a moving vehicle. However, it is not illegal to text while at the wheel of a stationary car at a stop light. The law further allows drivers to type on their phones for navigation purposes or to report emergency or criminal activity to law enforcement. Also, it is still legal to make phone calls on the road.

Police enforce the texting ban as a secondary violation. In other words, an officer must first catch a driver in another traffic offense. Violations of the texting ban are nonmoving traffic violations punishable by a $30 fine for the first offense. While traffic safety advocates consider the texting ban a good start, the next legislative session is likely to consider several proposals to toughen the law by making texting while driving a primary offense with larger fines.

The current text of the law is available at http://www.flsenate.gov/Laws/Statutes/2013/316.305.