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You Auto Know – Rules to live by on the Florida roads

1. Changing Lanes

It is illegal to change lanes, turn, or pass another vehicle without using your turn signal. F.S. 316.155 requires drivers to use the appropriate signal in each of the following circumstances:

  • When moving to the right or left (i.e. merging or changing lanes)
  • When turning from a direct course (i.e. turning right or left, or making a u-turn), including when in a designated turn lane; the turn signal must be used at least 100 feet before the turn begins
  • When passing or overtaking another vehicle (i.e. when passing on a two-lane highway)

2. Florida Insurance

Florida has the lowest insurance requirements in the country and is the only state that does not require drivers to carry some form of liability insurance coverage. Our state is the 3rd most populous state in the country, with more than 22 million people and more than 14 million licensed drivers (and many more unlicensed and visiting drivers). Florida requires drivers to carry $10,000 in PIP (no-fault) insurance and $10,000 in property damage insurance, the lowest requirements in the country. However, drivers are not required to carry any bodily injury liability insurance, the only state with no such requirement.

This insurance scheme places greater value on property than on people. In other words, if you cause a crash in Florida, you are required to have insurance to fix the car you hit, but not to cover the medical bills of the people you injured. It’s a very backward and broken system. In fact, the Florida legislature passed legislation in 2021 requiring every driver to carry at least $25,000 in bodily injury liability insurance, bringing Florida in line with the other 49 states. The bill passed with 92% bipartisan support, but the governor vetoed it, choosing to ignore the problem and keep a very broken system in place.

Although bodily injury liability insurance is optional in Florida, approximately 26% – or 3.6 million drivers – don’t carry it. Of those who do, most carry relatively small limits, often insufficient to fully cover the harm they cause. If you are in a crash, there is a high likelihood that the driver who caused it has no insurance, or not enough, to cover your damages. For this reason, it is exceptionally important for you to carry as much uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM) coverage as you can.

3. Car owner’s responsibility

The owner of a car is responsible for any damage caused by someone driving the car with permission. Due to the inherent danger of a motor vehicle and its potential to cause great harm, a motor vehicle is deemed a “dangerous instrumentality” under Florida law. For this reason, Florida law imposes vicarious liability on the owner(s) of a vehicle when the vehicle is driven with the knowledge and consent of the owner(s). While some question the fairness of this legal approach, the reason for the law is to encourage vehicle owners to be careful about who they allow to drive their vehicles. The owner is in the best position to determine who may drive their car and whether that person can safely do so. Because the owner controls who can drive his/her car, the owner remains legally responsible for any harm caused by the driver.

4. Seatbelts

It is illegal to drive in Florida without wearing a seat belt. Florida law (F.S. 316.614) requires the driver to wear a seat belt at all times while operating the vehicle. All passengers under age 18 must wear a seat belt or be properly restrained in a child seat. All passengers age 18 or older and sitting in the front seat must wear a seat belt. These requirements generally apply to all private passenger vehicles, and do not apply to specialized vehicles such as RV’s, buses, garbage trucks, and mail delivery vehicles.

5. Children

  • It is illegal to leave a child under the age of 6 in a car unsupervised for more than 15 minutes.
  • It is also illegal to leave a child under age 6 unsupervised if the motor is running, the health of the child is in danger, or the child is in distress.

A violation if this statute is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 60 days in jail.

6. Motorcycles

Motorcycles must have their headlights on at all times. Florida law (F.S. 316.405) requires that all motorcycles must have their headlights on at all times, even during daylight hours. This is a safety requirement to make motorcycles more visible.

7. Cell Phones

It is illegal to use a cell phone in a handheld manner in a school zone or work zone. Florida law (F.S. 316.306) prohibits drivers from using any wireless communication devices, including a cell phone, in a handheld manner while driving in a designated school zone, school crossing or any work zone where workers are present.

8. Texting

It is illegal to text, type, or read from a cell phone or other wireless device while driving. Despite the obvious dangers of texting and reading while driving, it continues to be a major problem on Florida roads. Florida law (F.S.316.305) prohibits drivers from texting, typing or entering multiple characters and from reading from a wireless device while driving. If a crash results in personal injury or death, the driver’s cell phone billing records may be obtained and admissible as evidence at trial.

Authored by Eric Romano

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