Cellphone driving laws: Florida and Massachusetts


Florida has a new law that prohibits texting while driving, which went into effect July 1. It’s called the Wireless Communications While Driving Law. From now until January 1, 2020, drivers who break the law will get a warning, but after that, a $30 fine will be imposed for a first offense, and a $60 fine for a second offense. But that’s actually just the tip of the iceberg – there are court costs, insurance surcharges and more that can make breaking the law quite costly. Florida Today explains why your $30 ticket becomes way more expensive, breaking down additional court costs and fees that bring your actual first-time penalty to $119 in Brevard County. (Each county’s fees may differ)  In addition to that, your auto insurance rates could cost you up to 25% more per year for three years. That means that a quick text could be very costly!

Local 10 offers a recap of what you need to know about Florida’s new texting while driving law. There are some exceptions, which they list as:

“Some exceptions apply. The law does not apply to vehicles that are stationary or to a driver who is:
– Performing official duties, such as operating an emergency vehicle (i.e., law enforcement, fire service professionals, and emergency medical service providers).
– Reporting an emergency, a crime or other suspicious activity to law enforcement.
– Receiving messages that are:
a. related to the operation and/or navigation of the motor vehicle; b. safety-related information (emergency, traffic, and weather alerts); c. data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or d. radio broadcasts.
– Using the device in a hands-free manner for navigation purposes.
– Using the device in a way that does not require manual entry of characters, except to initiate a function or feature.”

Massachusetts cell-phone ban law in the works

Massachusetts residents take note: In June, Boston.com reported that a driver hand-held cellphone ban moves closer to becoming law. The Senate and the House have both approved versions of the law and must now reach agreement on a compromise bill. But be aware that proposed fines are costly:

The bill calls for a fine of $100 for a first offense, $250 for a second offense and $500 for a subsequent offense. Those who commit a second or subsequent offense would be required to complete a program that “encourages a change in driver behavior and attitude about distracted driving.”

A third or subsequent violation would also be a considered a surchargeable incident under car insurance policies. The bill would allow an exception to using cellphones in the case of an emergency if no one else in the car is able to make the call.

Driving & cellphone use laws by state

Here’s a handy tool to bookmark: The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) maintains a summary of cell-phone use laws with maps and a detailed chart listing of cellphone use laws by state.

They summarize three types of prohibitions for cellphone use laws:

  • Hand-held ban laws: Bans on hand-held phone conversations while driving are widespread in other countries and are becoming more common in the U.S. In 2001, New York became the first state to ban hand-held phone conversations by all drivers. Now 20 states and the District of Columbia have similar laws.
  • Texting ban laws: Texting is banned for all drivers in 48 states and the District of Columbia.
  • Young driver phone ban use laws: 38 states and the District of Columbia restrict cellphone use by young drivers.

Powerful video reminders: stay focused while driving this summer


A public service ad from Volkswagon uses a clever and persuasive way to drive home an important point.

A public service announcement from Honda illustrates things from a different perspective

This moving AT&T documentary shows just how quickly life can change

A California graphic designer takes photos of people texting while driving and uploads them to a site called TwitSpotting – he feeds these images to billboards in San Francisco

Gauging Your Distraction – Interactive game

From One Second to the Next: Powerful
Director Werner Herzog’s 35-minute documentary film takes a tough look at the aftermath of a split second error – texting while driving.

Distracted Driving Laws

From One Second to the Next: Powerful


Celebrated director Werner Herzog’s powerful 35-minute documentary film takes a tough look at the aftermath of a split second error – texting while driving. It was released in early August and already has nearly 2 million views. It tells the stories of people who suffered the effects of texting-while-driving accidents — told by victims, first responders, and by the people who caused the accidents by texting.

It takes only a second to cause a tragedy. Take the pledge: It Can Wait

The movie was made in partnership by wireless carriers AT&T, Verizon Wireless, T-Mobile and Sprint. A shorter version will be shown in 40,000 high schools at the start of the coming school year. Read more about the film here:
Director Werner Herzog’s “From One Second to the Next” has racked up nearly 1.75 million views on YouTube since it debuted Aug. 8.

Distracted walking is no joke


OK, you’ve heard about distracted driving – but were you aware that distracted walking could be a problem, too? Although it may sound funny, it’s a real thing and not a joke. Just as happens to drivers, pedestrians experience reduced situation awareness, distracted attention and unsafe behavior when talking or texting on mobile phones.

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission reported that 1,152 pedestrians were treated in emergency rooms after being injured while using a cellphone or some other electronic device in 2010 — and the number had doubled since the year before. The increase in pedestrian injuries paralleled and even exceeded distracted driving injuries.

Falling onto a train track

Falling off a pier

Scary run-in with a bear

A little humor to make a serious point
Distracted walking is a serious topic but it prompted fun-loving pranksters Improv Everywhere to launch an army of “Seeing Eye People” to protect the many distracted walkers in New York – a funny way to make a serious point.

Take the “texting while driving game” to see how you fare with distractions


When it comes to driving distractions like cellphones and texting, most people underestimate the danger that they pose and overestimate their own ability to multitask at the wheel. The New York Times has created a text while driving simulator, an interactive game that measures how your reaction time is affected by external distractions. Try it out and see how you do.
According to a news story accompanying this game, there is extensive research documenting the dangers of distracted driving:

“Studies say that drivers using phones are four times as likely to cause a crash as other drivers, and the likelihood that they will crash is equal to that of someone with a .08 percent blood alcohol level, the point at which drivers are generally considered intoxicated. Research also shows that hands-free devices do not eliminate the risks, and may worsen them by suggesting that the behavior is safe.
A 2003 Harvard study estimated that cellphone distractions caused 2,600 traffic deaths every year, and 330,000 accidents that result in moderate or severe injuries.
Yet Americans have largely ignored that research. Instead, they increasingly use phones, navigation devices and even laptops to turn their cars into mobile offices, chat rooms and entertainment centers, making roads more dangerous.”

We’ve previously posted about the increasing trend of states enacting laws against cellphone use and texting while driving along with a chart of state laws banning cellphones and texting while driving.