Distracted driving is a serious issuing in Florida, and that’s why April has been designated as a month to raise awareness of the issue. Although distracted driving is prominent throughout the U.S., it a particular concern in Florida.
In just the last three years, accidents in Florida related to distracted driving have increased by 25 percent, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. There were over 42,000 vehicle accidents attributed to distracted driving in Florida last year. More than 200 people were killed as a result.
In late March, an automobile driver travelling southbound on Interstate 75 in Sumter County, Florida reportedly drifted out of his lane while talking or texting on a cell phone, forcing a semi truck to drive onto the shoulder, hit a guardrail and overturn, according to a news report. According to the Florida Highway Patrol, the truck driver told police that he noticed the other driver was using a cell phone because it was dark outside, and the screen of the driver’s cell phone was lit up.
There are three main ways people are distracted when they are driving:
- Visual: Taking their eyes of the road
- Manual: Removing their hands from the steering wheel to fiddle with the radio or reach for something
- Cognitive: Thinking about something else, such as when talking on the phone
Lt. Greg Bueno, a spokesperson with the Florida Highway Patrol, said that distraction involves anything that takes your focus off the road. Distractions delay the reaction time of drivers, taking valuable seconds that may mean the difference in avoiding an accident.
“The safest thing to do is to keep both hands on the wheel and keep both eyes on the road, and your mind as well,” Bueno continued. “It’s common sense. It’s being safe.”
It comes as little surprise that cell phones – and texting in particular – are now probably the biggest distractions drivers deal with.
“With the technology, pretty much everybody has a phone,” Bueno added. “They need to separate themselves from the phone when they’re behind the wheel of an automobile. You’re increasing your chance of being involved in a crash. And you’re putting everybody else’s life in jeopardy, as well.”
Manually sending or reading texts, emails, or instant messages while operating a moving vehicle is illegal in Florida. However, it is only a secondary offense that a driver can get ticketed for if he or she is pulled over for another violation, such as speeding.
Since the law went into effect in late 2013, there have been only about 2,400 citations in all of Florida.
So, how do you get people to start paying more attention when they drive? If you really need to use your phone, pull over or have a passenger place the phone call.
If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver in the Tampa area, let an experienced Tampa distracted driving accident lawyer who handles distracting driving accidents review the facts and explain your legal rights.