April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and organizations
and advocates throughout the country are increasing their efforts to raise
awareness about the devastating consequences distraction can have when
it takes place behind the wheel. According to the National Safety Council,
one of the organizations leading the way in raising awareness this month,
driver distraction is playing a significant role in the rising numbers
of injuries and deaths on American roadways.
Estimates from the National Safety Council have found some alarming data,
the most notable of which include:
- Roughly 40,000 roadways fatalities in 2016 – a 6% increase over 2015.
- A 14% increase in motor vehicle accidents in 2016 compared to 2014, the
largest two year increase on record.
- More than 4.6 million auto accident injuries serious enough to require
medical attention in 2016, a 7% increase compared to 2015.
- A car-accident injury occurs every 8 seconds in the U.S.
While the dangers of distracted driving have long been known, these statistics
paint an alarming picture as to just how serious the problem has become.
According to the National Safety Council, distracted driving has contributed
to many preventable injuries and deaths on our road. What’s more,
this distraction largely involves the use of cell phones. At Boswell &
Dunlap LLP, our personal injury lawyers know the serious consequences
of driver distraction and cell phone use all too well.
Cell Phone Use & Distraction
Using a cell phone while driving is considered to be one of the most dangerous
forms of driver distraction. This is because reading and responding to
messages, or navigating the internet and apps, often commands a driver’s
visual, manual, and mental attention all at once. As a result, drivers
substantially increase their crash risks and are far less likely to see
potential dangers and react when driving on the open road.
In response to what the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
has dubbed a “nationwide epidemic,” experts and advocates
are calling attention to the critical need for stemming the rising numbers
of injuries and deaths on our roads. To achieve this, the National Safety
Council is recommending tougher distracted driving laws, particularly
when it comes to regulating the use of cell phones and text messaging
Over the years, increased awareness about driver distraction has led to
laws being passed in many states. Unfortunately, not all of these laws
are created equally by state lawmakers, and many of them fall short in
addressing the underlying issue and protecting public safety. For example,
some states still permit experienced drivers to use a cell phone behind
the wheel. This includes hands-free devices, which are not risk free.
States may also pass distracted driving measures as secondary laws, which
limits the ability of police to enforce laws as they cannot cite drivers
without another traffic violation taking place.
Florida Laws on Distracted Driving
When it comes to distracted driving laws, many experts believe that Florida’s
legislation falls overwhelmingly short in protecting the public. In fact,
a recent study published by EverQuote found that Florida is ranked as
the second-worst state for distracted driving. Here’s why:
- Although Florida prohibits text messaging while driving for all motorists,
the law is a secondary law that prevents law enforcement from pulling
over and citing a driver unless they have committed another traffic violation.
Florida is one of only five states nationwide to not enforce a texting
ban as a primary law.
- Florida joints the majority of states that do not prohibit hand-held cell
phone use for drivers. The state does not prohibit all cell phone use
for any drivers, as some states do for novice and school bus drivers.
Experts agree that updating laws to primary laws can better allow law enforcement
to cite motorists who engage in texting behind the wheel, and set a clear
standard for acceptable driving conduct. Passing laws to prohibit handheld
cell phone use can also help reduce the number of distracted drivers on
Tougher laws are certainly part of reducing the likelihood of preventable
crashes, but they are not the only measure to be taken. In a world where
we are constantly plugged in and engaged in our smart phones, it will
take a great deal of work to remind motorists that doing so behind the
wheel is a negligent, risky, and extremely dangerous act that can have
life-altering consequences. Educating the public and raising awareness
will continue to be a critical mission for all states across the country
if we want to put an end to distracted driving. Remember, you can do your
part by waiting to use the phone.
As long as there are cell phones, there will be distracted driving and,
unfortunately, distracted driving accidents. When these preventable wrecks
do occur, victims have the right to hold the driver accountable for their
negligence and to recover financial compensation for the damages they
suffered. Working with a lawyer during this time can ensure victims and
families take the appropriate steps toward full and fair compensation.
Our Bartow car accident lawyers at Boswell & Dunlap LLP have helped
numerous injured victims across Polk County and Florida after they were
car wrecks, including preventable wrecks caused by a distracted motorist. Our team
is readily available to help car wreck victims learn more about their
rights and what we can do to help. Reach out to our firm as soon as possible
to get started on your case.
Contact us today for a FREE consultation.