Texting while driving is no longer permitted in Florida. Starting October 1, 2013, drivers will have to pay a fine and costs (a total that would exceed $100 in the Tampa-St. Petersburg region). A driver will also face points against their license if they have repeat offenses, text while driving through a school zone or cause a crash due to this dangerous type of distracted driving.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines “distracted driving” as any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. “All distractions endanger driver, passenger and bystander safety,” the NHTSA says.
Examples of distracted driving activities include:
- Texting (including composing, sending or reading text messages)
- Dialing or talking on a cell phone or smartphone
- Eating and drinking
- Talking to passengers
- Reading, including maps
- Using a navigation system
- Watching a video
- Adjusting a radio, iPod, MP3 player or CD player.
In its 2010 Florida Traffic Crash Statistics Report (the latest available), the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles calls “driver distraction” a contributing cause in more than 2,000 car wrecks in the state over the course of the year. Florida distracted driving accidents in 2010 caused seven fatalities and 1,474 personal injuries. Another 542 distracted driving accidents resulted in property damage only.
Nationally, distracted driving accidents killed 3,092 people and injured an estimated 416,000 more in 2010, the NHTSA says.
To stop the rise in distracted driving accidents, Florida and other states are prohibiting the use of cell phones behind the wheel. Forty-one states, now including Florida, have adopted laws that prohibit sending messages via mobile devices (texting) while behind the wheel. Ten states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands prohibit all drivers from using handheld cell phones while driving.
Distracted Driving is a Known Safety Hazard
Any action that takes a driver’s attention away from the safe operation of a motor vehicle is a form of “distracted driving.” But the prevalence of cell phones in our society has fueled the rise in distracted driving.
An NHTSA survey conducted in December 2011 found that of 718 drivers who said they had been in a car crash, 6 percent said they were using a cell phone at the time: 4 percent were talking, 1 percent were sending a text message or e-mail and 1 percent were reading a text message or e-mail with the phone. Drivers age 25 to 34 reported talking on the phone at the time of a crash or near crash more than any other age group.
But texting while driving creates the most deadly risk to drivers, passengers and pedestrians.
Sending or receiving a text message takes a driver’s eyes from the road for an average of 4.6 seconds, a U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) study states. In a car going 55 mph, this is the same as driving the length of a football field while blindfolded. Texting while driving creates a crash risk 23 times worse than driving while not distracted, the DOT says.
Unfortunately, younger and less-experienced drivers are most likely to engage in texting while driving. In a 2011 survey, the AAA Foundation discovered that 23 percent of young adults (age 17 to 26) readily admitted that they or their friends had engaged in texting while driving.
Florida’s texting-while-driving ban reinforces the serious danger posed by distracted driving. If another driver injures you or a loved one because of distracted driving, it is a legitimate basis for a legal claim. You deserve to be compensated for pain and suffering, medical bills, lost wages, emotional distress and other losses.
At the Disparti Law Group, P.A., we will do everything we can to make sure that the distracted driver and his or her insurance company are held accountable for the harm you have suffered. We will fight vigorously to get you the maximum compensation allowed under Florida law.
To learn more about how our Florida distracted driving accident attorneys can help you after a car crash, contact us today at 866-596-7638 or fill out our online form.