Distracted Driving the Focus of FLHSMV Campaign
Drivers in Central Florida reminded to stay focused and stay safe when behind the wheel
Distracted driving has become an increasingly common cause of collisions across the United States, and Florida is no exception.
According to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), there were 47,051 crashes involving distracted driving in the state in 2021 alone. These accidents resulted in 222 fatalities and 25,928 injuries. The numbers are alarming and highlight the urgent need for drivers to stay focused while behind the wheel.
Why is distracted driving more common?
The rise in distracted driving has been attributed to the proliferation of smartphones and other handheld devices, which have become ubiquitous in modern society. In fact, cell phone use while driving has become the most common form of distraction on the roads, with texting, talking, and social media use among the most prevalent behaviors.
However, distracted driving is not just limited to cell phone use. Other risky actions such as adjusting the radio or GPS, applying makeup, eating, and drinking have also contributed to the problem. As a result, Florida has implemented laws and campaigns to combat the issue. But statistics show that more needs to be done to address the growing problem of distracted driving on the Sunshine State's roads and highways.
Types of distracted driving
Driver distraction is a complex issue that can take many different forms, but it can generally be divided into three categories: visual, manual, and cognitive:
- Visual distractions (e.g., looking at a map, checking a GPS, or looking at an accident or event on the side of the road) occur when drivers take their eyes off the road.
- Manual distractions (e.g., eating, drinking, or adjusting the radio or climate controls) happen when drivers take their hands off the steering wheel.
- Cognitive distractions (e.g., daydreaming, talking to passengers, or dealing with emotions like stress or anger) occur when drivers lose focus on the task of driving due to their thoughts or external factors.
Texting and driving is a triple threat
Of all the different types of driver distraction, texting while driving is considered the most dangerous because it involves all three categories of distraction: visual, manual, and cognitive.
When a driver is texting, they are not only taking their hands off the wheel but also their eyes off the road and their mind off driving. This makes it a triple threat when it comes to the likelihood of causing a serious or fatal car accident.
According to DoSomething.org, texting while driving increases the risk of a crash by 23 times. This is because texting requires drivers to take their eyes off the road for an average of 5 seconds, which is enough time to cover the length of a football field when driving at 55 mph.
Florida's 'Put it Down - Focus on Driving' campaign
The FLHSMV has partnered with law enforcement agencies to launch the "Put It Down - Focus on Driving" campaign to educate drivers about the dangers of distracted driving. In addition, the campaign aims to raise awareness about the importance of staying focused on the road and minimizing any form of distraction while driving.
To help drivers avoid distracted driving, the campaign provides safety tips that include:
- Pulling over to a safe location before using a phone
- Programming a GPS before driving
- Avoiding eating and drinking while driving
- Keeping the radio and climate controls set before starting the car
- Using a designated texter
- Turning off phone notifications while driving
National Distracted Driving Awareness Month
April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and to combat the dangers of distracted driving, the NHTSA has launched a national paid media campaign called "U Drive. U Text. U Pay." The campaign aims to remind drivers about the deadly dangers of texting while driving and the legal consequences of engaging in this behavior. In addition, during a portion of Distracted Driving Awareness Month, law enforcement agencies across the country may increase patrols to enforce laws against distracted driving.
The NHTSA says one of the most effective ways to prevent distracted driving is to remind friends and family of the importance of driving without distractions. Encouraging loved ones to put their phones down while driving, or to use a designated texter or hands-free device, can help reduce the risks associated with distracted driving.
What are Florida's distracted driving laws?
The Wireless Communications While Driving Law, section 316.305, Florida Statutes, took effect on July 1, 2019. This law prohibits drivers from manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, or symbols into a wireless communications device for texting, emailing, or instant messaging while operating a motor vehicle. This includes handheld devices such as cell phones, tablets, laptops, two-way messaging devices, or electronic games.
In addition, section 316.306, Florida Statutes, prohibits using wireless communications devices in a handheld manner in designated school crossings, school zones, or active work zones where construction personnel are present or operating equipment. In other words, using a wireless communication device in a handheld manner in these areas while driving is illegal.
Penalties for distracted driving in Florida
Violations of Florida's distracted driving laws can result in penalties, including fines and points assessed against a driver's license.
For texting while driving, a first offense is a non-moving traffic violation with a base fine of $30, while a second offense within 5 years is a moving traffic violation with a base fine of $60 and 3 points assessed against the driver's license.
For not using a device hands-free in school and work zones, any offense is a moving traffic violation with a base fine of $60 and 3 points assessed against the driver's license.
However, there are exceptions to the law. The law does not apply to a motor vehicle operator who is:
- Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle
- Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities
- Receiving messages related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle or safety-related information
- Using a device or system for navigation purposes
- Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function
- Conducting wireless communication that does not require reading text messages except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function
- Operating an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode.
Compensation for crashes involving distracted drivers
If you or a loved one has suffered injuries in a Central Florida car accident involving a distracted driver, it's important to understand your legal rights and options. You may be entitled to financial compensation for your medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering, and other related damages. However, navigating the legal system and dealing with insurance companies can be overwhelming.
At the Law Offices of Brent C. Miller, P.A., we have an entire team of experienced car accident lawyers dedicated to helping crash victims in Central Florida recover the compensation they deserve. We understand the physical, emotional, and financial toll a car accident can take on a person's life, and we work tirelessly to hold negligent drivers accountable.
Our attorneys have secured millions of dollars in verdicts and settlements for our clients, including tourists and "snowbirds" who are injured while visiting Florida. With decades of combined trial experience, we know what it takes to fight back against insurance companies who want to pay you less.
Let us put our knowledge and experience to work for you and help you get back on the road to recovery. To learn more about how a Central Florida car accident attorney can help with your potential legal case, contact us today for a free consultation. Our offices are located in Tavares, Inverness, The Villages, and Clermont.