For Commercial Drivers In Florida Texting While Driving Can Get you Pulled Over
Florida’s new Texting while driving statute will have little effect on commercial drivers in the state. Though the new law applies to commercial drivers, federal regulations for commercial drivers already prohibit texting and carry far more severe penalties.
The New Florida Law
SB 52, signed by Gov. Scott at the end of May, makes texting while driving a nonmoving violation. It is punishable by a $30 fine for the first offense. A second violation within 5 years incurs a $60 fine.
It is also a “secondary offense”, meaning law enforcement cannot pull over a driver without another violation observed. There is also an exception that permits texting while stationary in traffic or at a stop light.
Federal Regulation 49 CFR 392.80
Commercial drivers should concentrate on the prohibitions of the federal regulations. In 2011, the Department of Transportation published 49 CFR 392.80, Prohibition Against Texting. It applies to all commercial drivers in the U.S. as well as motor carriers.
Trucking companies are prohibited from permitting or requiring its drivers to text while driving. A commercial driver is prohibited from sending or reading a text message while driving. Driving includes periods where the carrier is stopped at a traffic light or momentarily stopped in traffic. The ban is stricter than Florida law in this respect.
A motor carrier is permitted to send or read text messages in 2 instances: 1) if pulled off safely to the side of the road and 2) to notify law enforcement or emergency vehicles of an emergency situation.
Unlike the Florida law, it is not a secondary offense. If observed by law enforcement, the driver may be pulled over and cited, regardless of whether another driving violation was observed. The Florida law cannot be used as a defense. The commercial driver cannot assert that they complied with Florida state law. If they are under the jurisdiction of federal law, the federal law takes precedence.
The penalties for violating regulation 49 CFR 392.08 are far more severe than the $30 fine in Florida. A driver or motor carrier can be fined up to $2750. Under 49 CFR 371, a driver faces a 60 day disqualification for a second offense and 120 days for a third offense, provided the offenses are in a 3 year period. If disqualified, a driver is prohibited from operating a commercial vehicle.
Both commercial drivers and trucking companies should be aware of the new federal regulations. For attorneys representing parties injured while a commercial driver was texting, knowledge of the new rules are a must. For people injured by a commercial carrier who was texting while driving, they should contact a personal injury lawyer experienced in trucking accidents, and well versed in commercial driving regulations.