Fla. Law Bans Touching a Cell Phone in Protected Zones

While an earlier law banned texting while driving, an Oct. 1 change makes it illegal to be seen even holding a phone when driving in a school zone or work zone.

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – School gets out at 2 p.m., and it’s 1:45 p.m. or so, which means if you’re a parent, you’re probably stuck in a car line. You’re not moving for at least 15 minutes, possibly longer as traffic gets held up because somebody’s kid needs to pull off that last Pokémon card trade, the complexity of which rivals some of the more labyrinthine deals in Major League Baseball history.

So what do you do? You scroll through your phone like every other parent in line, and maybe when the line starts creeping along, you keep scrolling. Well, that last bit can get you three points off your license under a law that went into effect Tuesday.

The Florida Legislature banned texting while driving within the state in the 2019 legislative session. That law specifically outlawed punching in numbers, letters and symbols while driving – texting, in other words.

But under a provision of the law that went into effect Tuesday, it is illegal to hold a cell phone in your hand while driving in a school or work zone.

There are many exceptions, of course, including emergency purposes and messages that are related to navigation or operation of the vehicle. And you can use a phone while your vehicle is stopped. But the days of scrolling through Twitter while inching along in the car line are over.

One of the Legislature’s primary proponents of laws banning cell phone use while driving, state Rep. Emily Slosberg, D-Boca Raton, has already filed a bill for the 2020 legislative session that would extend this ban on handheld cell phone use statewide, so that all drivers must use hands-free technology such as Bluetooth in order to use their phones while driving.

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