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 while driving.
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 our roads.
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 harmed in 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.