Distracted Driving: A Leading Cause of Accidents
For most Americans, driving an automobile is a daily occurrence, so much so that it has almost become second nature. This makes it easy to become distracted with other tasks, like eating and drinking or even responding to a text message, all acts which result in distracted driving. Distracting driving is a phrase we often hear but is most commonly associated with texting and driving. Distracted driving is any activity that takes a driver’s attention away from operating a vehicle. This means that activities like changing the radio station, talking to passengers in the vehicle, and eating or drinking all constitute distracted driving- all of which could easily lead to an accident. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, upwards of 3,000 motorists are killed each year due to distracted driving. The Florida Department for Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles categorizes three categories of driver distractions:
- Visual distractions are distractions that divert your eyes from the road.
- Manual distractions are distractions that cause you to remove your hands from the steering wheel.
- Cognitive distractions are those which allow your mind to wander away from the task of driving.
Texting and driving though involves all three categories which make it the most dangerous type of distracted driving. In the 5 seconds that it takes to read a text message, a vehicle traveling 55 miles per hour travels the length of a football field. It only takes a few seconds to be distracted and swerve, accidentally hitting a cyclist, another vehicle, or pedestrian.
Wireless Communication Devices: The Law in Florida
In 2019, Florida enacted two laws that prohibit the use of wireless communication devices while driving, making Florida the 45th state to enact such laws.
The first of the two statutes, Florida Statute §316.305, otherwise known as the “Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law” makes texting while driving a primary offense. A primary offense means that a police officer can issue a citation to any individual who they see using a wireless communication device while driving.
However, the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law does not apply to:
- Law enforcement officers such as on-duty police officers, medical emergency personnel, or fire service professionals.
- Individuals reporting an emergency, criminal activity, or suspicious activity
- Receiving messages that pertain to safety-related information, like weather alerts, messages from a navigation system, radio broadcasts or from data used primarily by the vehicle.
- Those using hands-free technology to operate those wireless communication devices
- Those operating a self-driving car that has the automated driving system engaged.
The second of these statutes, Florida Statute §316.306 specifically prohibits the use of handheld wireless communication devices within school zones, school crossings, and work zones when workers are present. This law also makes the operation of these devices within these designated areas a primary offense. But, drivers whose vehicles are at a complete stop or stationary are not in violation of this law and are not subject to a citation.
How Distracted Driving Can Impact your Case
The unique facts of every case are important. Acts which constitute distracted driving, like texting and driving can negatively impact your case. For example, in unfortunate cases where a crash results in serious bodily injury or death, both Florida statutes, §316.305 and §316.306 allow for use of an individual’s cellphone billing records or testimony of the person who received such messages in determining whether a violation has been committed.
Therefore, it is important when consulting with your attorney that you provide all accident details, including another party’s improper usage of a wireless communication device. This information, as well as other accident information, gives clients the best chance of obtaining appropriate compensation for their accident injuries.
If you or someone you know has been injured in an accident due to the negligence of others, call Schackow & Mercadante, P.A., a law firm with a combined 143 years of experience in handling accident injury cases. Call our office at 352-261-6767 to speak with our office about your personal injury claim and to schedule a free consultation with an experienced attorney.