Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious crime, and you could face steep penalties if you do so in Florida.
If you are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration above 0.15 percent, your license could be suspended for six months, severely limiting your driving privileges. Penalties are even steeper for repeat offenders or those under the age of 18, including fines and jail time. You could even be required to place an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. And the penalty stays on your record for 10 years, impacting your insurance rates.
The bottom line? Never drink and drive in Florida, or anywhere else. It’s not worth it.
Seat Belt Laws
A seat belt is an important defense against injury in an accident. Florida requires anyone over the age of 6 to wear one. And since the state has a “primary” seat belt law, you can be pulled over and ticketed simply for not wearing one, no other violations necessary.
Distracted Driving Laws
Distracted driving has become a major problem with the proliferation of handheld devices. In Florida, handheld device use while driving is banned in school and work zones. In these settings, you must use hands-free modes.
Texting while driving, however, is banned and enforceable as a primary offense everywhere. If you get caught more than once, you could receive fines and points on your license.
Teen Driver Laws
Florida’s teen driver laws are similar to those in many other states. Teens can apply for learner’s licenses at age 15. At first, young drivers can only drive during daylight hours and with accompanying drivers over the age of 21.
After a year and sufficient practice hours, teens may apply for driver’s licenses. Curfews from 11 p.m. to 6 a.m. remain in place until age 18, at which point most restrictions go away.
Statute of Limitations for Claims
You should be aware of the statute of limitations for claims in Florida, as this impacts how long you can wait before filing. Both property damage and personal injury claims have a statute of limitations of four years in the state.5 This is right on par with the rest of the country. You’ll need to file your claims within that window if you want them to be covered.
Cancellation/Non-Renewal Notification Laws
As in most states, insurance providers in Florida cannot cancel policies that have been in force for over 60 days, except in these cases:
- You don’t pay the premium.
- You commit fraud or misrepresentation on your application.
- Your driver’s license is revoked or suspended.
If an insurance company cancels your policy in the middle of the term, it must notify you at least 45 days prior to the effective date. In cases of nonpayment, that window shortens to 10 days.
Non-renewal is a different story. At the end of your policy term, your insurance provider may not offer you a renewal. Perhaps it no longer offers that type of insurance, or it wants to reduce the number of policies in your area. In such cases, the company must notify you at least 45 days before the expiration date of your policy.6
Florida is a state that allows self-insurance. This means you can waive the insurance requirement by proving that you have enough assets to cover yourself and others in the event of an accident. Florida requires self-insurers to demonstrate $40,000 in net worth for their first car, and $20,000 for each subsequent car.
If you self-insure, you won’t have to pay monthly premiums, but you will assume full financial responsibility if you get into an accident. Consider your net worth to determine if this option would be worthwhile.
Car Inspection Requirements
Florida car inspection laws are quite lax compared to those in other states. The state has abolished emissions testing, and there is no yearly requirement for vehicle inspection for new cars purchased in the state — only if you purchase a used car in Florida or any car out of state.
If you do get an inspection, you only have to demonstrate that the vehicle you are driving is the same one you have registered.
If you commit multiple serious driving offenses, you may be required to carry additional proof of liability coverage. In such cases, you will need a form called an SR-22 to prove you have the minimum coverage. An SR-22 is also known as a “certificate of financial responsibility.” Florida requires SR-22s in cases of serious traffic violations.
Florida may also require an FR-44 form in incidents involving alcohol. In this case, your liability requirements increase from the baseline to $100,000/$300,000 (meaning your plan will pay up to $100,000 per person whom you injure in an accident or up to $300,000 for the entire accident). The new minimums remain this high for three years following the reinstatement of your license.
Defensive driving means driving safely and respectfully in relation to other motorists, such as maintaining safe following distances and driving more slowly.
It’s always a good idea to take a defensive driver course. Florida calls them “basic driver improvement” (BDI) courses, and numerous providers offer them both online and in person. If you elect to take one of these courses, some insurance providers will offer you a rate discount. You could also get points removed from your license.
You may be required to take a BDI course in various scenarios, such as if you cause a crash that sends someone to the hospital or pass a school bus when it displays a stop signal.