Florida: A Unique State with Laws to Match
Alongside the allure of Florida’s great weather and beautiful beaches, there also seems to be a running joke about what a weird state it is. Whether it’s the madcap characters of a Carl Hiaasen novel or being mentioned for something ridiculous that happened on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver or The Daily Show, Florida is often the butt of jokes, not all of them undeserved. Along with all of the strange things that make us the epicenter of weirdness, there are a few unique laws governing our roadways, and with our transient population of part-time residents and tourists, these laws often the subject of much perplexity.
Because of Florida’s unique history, some of our laws are definitely a little odd. Although it’s no longer on the books, because of the circus heritage started by John Ringling, there once was a law in Sarasota that would ensure if you tied an elephant to a parking meter, you still had to pay the fee. Now that Sarasota is planning to reinstitute parking meters at yet another attempt to make them work, hopefully we won’t have anyone worrying about elephant parking.
Of course, that’s not our only antiquated law. A law passed in 1868 stated that a couple could be fined up to $500 a day for living together out of wedlock. Over half a million Floridians are breaking this law today; fortunately for them, police rarely enforced it, and Governor Rick Scott just repealed the law this year.
There are a few Florida other laws that don’t get enforced regularly. For instance, the 2010 Mark Wandall Traffic Safety Act made it the law that motorists must come to a complete stop at a marked stop line when making a right turn. While traffic light cameras cannot send you a citation for failure to stop, it’s still a good idea to come to a complete stop and look both ways before turning right on red. Although the cameras can’t get you for this one, human law enforcement officers can … and do.
As in many states, it is also a law that “in all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway.” Florida made an exception to this rule in the 2002 “Move Over Law,” which requires that drivers move to the left lane when passing emergency vehicles stopped on the side of the road, including police officers who may be issuing citations to people breaking some of our other traffic laws.
While many of those citations are written for speeding, Florida is also one of the few states with slow driving laws on the books. Perhaps it’s due to the number of retirees or people on vacation just looking to slow down and relax, but in Florida, you can be cited for driving so slowly that you impede traffic.
While these laws are rarely enforced, some simple ones are. For instance, automobile drivers and front-seat passengers must wear seatbelts at all times in Florida, as well as all passengers under the age of 18. Children under 5 must be in a proper restraint system. Drivers in Florida have been known to be pulled over for not wearing a seatbelt, so don’t take this one lightly. Buckle up.
Perhaps because of our reputation as a good-times getaway, Florida also has some of the nation’s strictest laws for driving under the influence. Anyone over the age of 21 will face criminal charges for driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol level (BAL) of .08 or higher, but the law is a little harsher for spring breakers under the age of 21, who can get a DUI if their BAL is .02 or over. If you’re going to drink while you enjoy a day at the beach or a night on the town, consider taking a cab or Uber.
Late summer is known as hurricane season in Florida, and the weather can often be inclement. If you’re from a different state, you may be tempted to use your hazard lights during heavy precipitation to be more visible to other motorists. However, unless you’re in a funeral procession, in Florida it is illegal to use your hazard lights while the vehicle is moving.
If these laws don’t seem too outlandish to you and you decide to move to Florida, know that you have 10 days to register your motor vehicle here after you get a job, establish residency, or enroll your children in school.
While Florida does have a number of oddball laws, as well as more than a handful of oddball people, it’s still a great place to live. We hope these tips help you enjoy this often weird but always delightful state without incident.