Distracted Driving & Cell Phone Laws in Florida
In several of our blog posts, we’ve discussed distracted driving and the devastating consequences it can have. This includes discussions about texting and driving, one of the most alarming and dangerous forms of driver distraction, and one of the primary factors cited by the National Safety Council for recent increases in roadway deaths nationwide. However, distracted driving can take many different forms aside from text messaging, including:
- Reading or composing e-mails
- Browsing the internet
- Using smartphone apps
- Browsing and selecting music
- Eating and drinking
- Personal grooming
- Talking to passengers
- Reading maps or navigation systems
The numbers make it clear that distracted driving has become a problem of epidemic proportions. In fact, statistics from the National Safety Council and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) show just how serious the problem has become:
- In 2016 alone, there were an estimated 40,000 motor vehicle deaths in the U.S. – a 6% increase from the previous year and a 15% increase from 2014.
- Experts estimate that at least 25% of all crashes involve some type of cell phone use.
- NHTSA reports that at least 12% of roadway fatalities involved cell phone use – a statistics that increases to 21% for drivers between the ages 15 to 19.
These surges in rates of motor vehicle accidents, injuries, and deaths represent the most dramatic two-year escalation in over 50 years. The reason, as most experts suggest, is largely due to the proliferation of cell phones and drivers who use them negligently behind the wheel. As studies have confirmed time and time again, cell phone use is by far the most dangerous from of distraction, as it commands a driver’s visual, manual, and cognitive attention simultaneously, and can increase one’s risk of crashing by over 23 times!
The problem is also extremely prevalent in the state of Florida, which has been ranked second to worst for distracted drivers by EverQuote, an online insurance company. Additionally, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has attributed roughly 50,000 auto accidents to distracted driving in the last year alone.
Florida Laws on Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel
In response to these alarming numbers, Florida has passed legislation to target directed driving with its Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law. Here are a few key things to note about the law:
- Florida’s ban on texting while driving prohibits drivers from manually typing or entering numbers, letters, or other characters on wireless communication devices while operating a moto vehicle.
- The ban does not apply to drivers performing official duties in emergency vehicles or to drivers who report emergencies or criminal activity (such as reporting a suspected drunk driver) to law enforcement.
- The law still allows drivers to use cell phones for navigation purposes, with the use of hands-free technology, and when in autonomous vehicles being operated in self-driving mode.
Because cell phone use behind the wheel is often prohibited by law, and because it is a negligent act that constitutes a driver’s failure to uphold their legal duty of safely operating their vehicle, distracted drivers can be held accountable for accidents that result in victims suffering injuries or death. In these auto accident cases, records from the at-fault driver’s cell phone company or internet service provider can be used as evidence to show their distraction at the time of the crash – and hold them liable for damages victims suffer, including their medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and more.
At Clark, Fountain, La Vista, Prather, & Littky-Rubin, our personal injury lawyers have extensive experience handling auto accident, pedestrian, motorcycle, and bicycle accident cases involving distracted driving throughout West Palm Beach and the surrounding areas of Florida. Because no victim should bear the burden of damages caused by a distracted motorist, we make ourselves available to help seriously injured victims understand their rights following distraction-affected crashes, as well as families who have lost loved ones in fatal wrecks.