Florida a hotspot for distracted driving
Faced with an increasing number of distracted driving accidents, Florida and many other states are cracking down on drivers who let distractions steal their attention away from the road.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month - a time when police departments step up enforcement to stop people from texting, eating, self-grooming, and partaking in other distracting behaviors while driving.
Distracted driving is an especially important issue in central Florida. Citrus and Orange counties often experience more distracted driving accidents than other Florida counties of similar sizes, according to a recent study. Meanwhile, Hernando County has the third most distracted driving accidents in its size group.
In the more than 30 years that the Law Offices of Brent C. Miller, P.A. has been practicing in central Florida, we have seen the way hand-held, wireless devices changed the way people drive a car, truck, SUV, or motorcycle.
When our law firm was first established in the 1990s, only the very well-off had hands-free devices in their vehicles. Now, there are often multiple devices in a car - smartphones, cellphones, GPS navigation equipment, streaming radio speakers, pagers, etc.
For those who don’t think distracted driving is a big deal, consider this: If you’re driving 55 mph and look down at a text for 5 seconds you have effectively driven the length of an entire football field - with your eyes closed.
What is distracted driving?
Distracted driving was a factor in more than 3,000 deaths in 2019, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
The total represents 10% more fatalities (about 300 people) than the deaths that occurred in 2018.
While cellphone accidents and texting while driving are cited as two of the top causes of car accidents in Florida, distracted driving encompasses several behaviors that take a driver's attention away from the road, including
- Talking to passengers
- Eating and drinking
- Reading GPS directions
- Having pets in the vehicle
- Looking at maps
- Adjusting a radio or audio device
- Watching a video
Ways to avoid distracted driving
When you get behind the wheel, be an example to your family and friends and put your phone away. If you are having a hard time not using your phone while driving, follow these tips:
- Pull over. Before you reach for your phone to check that social media notification or read a text, pull over to a safe location. Stopping at a gas station or a parking lot is better than pulling over on the side of the road, but both are better options than trying to safely operate your vehicle while looking at your phone.
- Designate a “texter.” Give a passenger the responsibility of holding onto your phone. That person can announce your texts and respond to them if necessary, enter directions on a GPS, answer phone calls, or alert you of any important app notifications.
- Store your phone where you can’t get it. If driving with your phone nearby is too much of a temptation, place your phone in the trunk, glove box, backseat, or another place where you will not be able to easily access it while driving.
- Be vigilant. If you see something, say something. When you're in a car with someone who is texting while driving, tell them to stop.
- Listen to your passengers. If they catch you texting while driving and tell you to put your phone away, put it down.
Florida's Distracted Driving Law
Florida’s distracted driving and texting laws are less restrictive than those in other states.
The law says it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle while manually typing multiple letters, numbers, or symbols into a wireless communication device. As written, the law covers many kinds of distracted driving like texting, scrolling social media, searching GPS maps, and manually entering phone numbers into a phone, among other actions.
You can talk on your handheld communication device while driving in Florida, except when you are in a school or work zone.
The law applies to Florida residents as well as tourists and snowbirds.
The penalties for breaking Florida’s “wireless communications while driving law” include a $30 base fine for a first offense, and a $60 base fine, plus 3 demerit points on your driving record, for second and subsequent violations. Using a handheld wireless device in a school or construction zone likewise will get you a $60 base fine plus 3 demerit points.
A “base fine” is the minimum penalty that can be assessed; other charges like court and justice fees could be added onto the punishment.
In Florida, if a driver collects 12 demerit points it can result in license suspension for a month. More points lead to longer suspensions.
Send distracted drivers a powerful message
Dealing with the aftermath of a serious car accident caused by a distracted driver can be overwhelming and stressful. Without the right evidence, you might face a bevy of challenges from the insurance company as you pursue appropriate compensation for your damages.
Don’t trouble yourself dodging an adjuster’s attempts to trick you into accepting blame and a tiny settlement. Let our law firm handle the insurance company and fight for the compensation you deserve. We thrive in a courtroom environment, but if the best results for your case can be accomplished with a settlement, we'll aggressively advocate for your best interests in negotiations.
See how an experienced car accident lawyer can help you and contact us today for a free consultation. With offices in Tavares, The Villages, Inverness, and Clermont, we proudly serve clients throughout central Florida.