Florida Driving Rules: What Travelers Should Know Before Hitting the Road

When traveling far distances by road you will enter and leave hundreds of municipalities. It is almost impossible to know what all the rules are in each state you travel through. But, for the most part all states have the same driving rules. Each summer when I was a girl my family would vacation in Florida. We always drove down the east coast on I-95 South. We live in New York, so we would always pass through many states like Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and so on. There are certain rules that you have to follow when driving in Florida.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI/DWI)
Florida has some of the toughest DUI laws in the nation. The national Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is .08. In Florida any driver with a BAC of .08 or higher is subject to various fines, community service, and probation. For a first time offense in Florida you may have to pay $250-$500 in fines, serve up to 6 months jail time, serve 50 hours of community service as well as 12 hours at DUI school, and remain on probation for up to one year. Typically first time offenders in Florida receive a combination of all these consequences.

If you are driving a vehicle in Florida while under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, and a minor is present you may have to pay $500-$1000 in fines, up to 90 hours of community service, DUI school, possible suspension of your drivers license, lengthy jail time, and probation for up to 1 year. In Florida, a BAC of .20 or higher is an automatic arrest. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is illegal in all 50 states, so just don’t do it.

Seat Belts
In Florida it is required that all children, drivers, and front seat passengers are required to wear seat belts. Passengers in the back seat are not required to wear seat belts, unless they are children. Children that are under 65 lbs. should be restrained in a car seat. Seat belts only save lives if you wear them. In my family we had a rule that the car didn’t move until everyone had their seat belts on. My parents taught us this since we were children and I never forgot it, even now as I am older.

Some passenger car models built before 1968 did not come with factory installed seat belts. If you are driving a car older than 1968 in Florida you are not required to wear a seat belt. Seat belts can be installed at almost any dealership for a reasonable price. Seat belts save lives and it is better to have them than not. Passengers in trucks built prior to 1972 are also not required to wear seat belts for the same reason. Vehicles weighing over 5000 lbs are also not restricted by the Florida Seat Belt Safety Law.

Speed Limits
As in any other country in our great nation, speed limits must be observed in Florida. Speeding as well as driving too slow are against the law because they both cause dangers to other motorists. All Florida highway and interstates speeds are 70 miles per hour (MPH). Business, municipal, and residential areas have posted 30 MPH speed limits, school zones are 20 MPH, and all other roads are 55 MPH unless otherwise posted.

In Florida, road rage is taken seriously and looked at as a crime. If you are aggressively or recklessly driving in Florida you may be charged and summoned to court. Reckless driving includes excessive speed, changing lanes numerous times, changing lanes without signaling, riding too close, and threatening other drivers. In Florida drivers that make others fear for their safety, or those that physically harm others on roadways are breaking the law. If you are found guilty of any of these offenses you are subject to suspension of your drivers license, community service, and fines.

Driving too fast or too slow causes hazards for drivers that normally wouldn’t exist. Driving too slow may cause someone to read end you, which could cause a much worse accident depending on what type of roadway you are driving. Driving too fast is dangerous to not only yourself but other drivers, public and private property, as well as life. Speeding causes hundreds of accidents each year in Florida, some with fatalities.

Accidents-Your Responsibilities
Always knowing what to do in an accident while traveling is tough. Try to remain calm no matter what. Accidents can be very stressful, but yelling and screaming is not going to help anyone. If you are involved in an accident or witness an accident the first thing you are required to do by law is stop. Even if you are not involved in the accident, your witness statement may be needed. Far too many times accidents happen and no one stops. When there are no witnesses it makes it hard for police to decipher what actually happened.

The next thing you should do is report the accident to the police and your insurance company. Always take the other drivers name, address, and phone number if possible. Also get their insurance policy information before leaving the scene of the accident. It usually takes the police a few minutes to arrive so get this information immediately after the accident. If your vehicle is movable and blocking traffic, Florida law requires that the vehicle be moved out of the way of traffic. Take pictures with a digital camera or disposable before you move your car otherwise you could loose valuable evidence. Most likely already have a camera if you are on vacation.

If you are found at fault you may have to appear in court. If you have to appear in court you will receive a summons with a date and time. You need to show up at the exact date and time on the ticket or summons. Sometimes if you arrive early your case will be handled first. If you do not appear in court you are breaking Florida law. A warrant will be issued for your arrest. It is better to just show up and avoid any complications.

Cell Phone Use While Driving
Up until 2001 Florida had no laws concerning cell phone usage while driving. In 2001 Florida Attorney General, Robert Butterworth, banned cell phone use while driving. Talking on cell phones and driving is dangerous and can cause accidents. Several states have passed laws banning cell phone use while driving. It is better to just not talk on the phone and drive. If it rings, pull over. The fines and/or laws in conjunction with cell phone use have been limited to the discretion of local municipalities. This means that you may suffer different consequences in all of the different counties in Florida.

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