Any distraction that diverts a driver’s attention from the task at hand can cause distracted driving. Driving distractions include eating and drinking, adjusting your radio or GPS device, tending to infants or pets, talking or texting on your phone, and anything else that can distract you from driving safely. Texting on your cell phone is one of the most dangerous driving distractions, because it takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, and your mind off safety.
The Wall Street Journal tells us that cell phones are now a factor in more than 25 percent of all traffic collisions in the United States. And depending on which research studies, surveys, and reports you read and believe, a driver who is texting is from three to twenty times more likely to be involved in a traffic collision than a driver who is not texting. What is the state of Florida’s law regarding texting while driving?
The current law in Florida prohibits texting while driving in most circumstances, and it spells out exceptions for emergencies, traffic jam conditions, and for police, fire, and emergency medical personnel. However, texting while driving in Florida is only considered a “secondary” offense, which means that a law enforcement officer cannot stop you for texting alone. There must be a separate, “primary” infraction to justify a traffic stop.
EXACTLY WHAT DOES FLORIDA’S TEXTING LAW SAY?
Florida law states that a police officer’s enforcement of the texting ban “must be accomplished only as a secondary action when an operator of a motor vehicle has been detained for a suspected violation” of some other “primary” law or traffic regulation. However, according to the Tampa Bay Times, the texting ban is so difficult to enforce that it is almost never actually used by Florida law enforcement officers.
What is the penalty for those who are nevertheless cited for texting while driving in Florida? Frankly, the “punishment” is not much more than a slap on the wrist.
A driver can be fined $30 for a first violation, and no points are placed on the driver’s license unless the texting occurred in a school zone, which adds two points to the license, or resulted in an accident, which adds six points to the license. A second offense committed within five years is considered a moving violation and can result in a $60 fine and three points on the driver’s license.
Even with an established ban on texting, motorists in the state of Florida are still texting while they drive. In fact, since Florida adopted the ban on texting while driving, the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles reports that crashes linked to distracted driving are actually increasing rather than decreasing in our state.
Should the law be tougher on motorists who text while they drive? Many believe that the current Florida laws regarding texting and other distractions to drivers are not sufficiently comprehensive. There is no law in this state against talking on a cell phone while driving, for example.
WHAT ARE VICTIMS OF NEGLIGENCE ENTITLED TO UNDER FLORIDA LAW?
If you are injured – now or in the future – in a Central Florida traffic collision with a motorist who was texting or distracted in some other way while driving, seek medical attention first and at once. Then speak with an experienced Orlando auto accident lawyer about taking legal action to win reimbursement for your medical expenses and related losses.
If you can prove that your injuries were caused by another driver’s negligence, you are entitled under Florida law to full compensation for all of your medical and other accident-related expenses, your lost wages, and all related damages.
Texting while driving is negligent driving, illegal and dangerous. If you are injured by a negligent driver in Florida, and if you pursue an injury claim against that driver, your personal injury attorney may be able to have the driver’s cell phone records subpoenaed.
The right to privacy generally includes cell phones, but in a disputed personal injury case, cell phone records can be determinative, and if they prove that the phone was in use at the time of the accident, your personal injury claim will almost certainly prevail. One Orlando personal injury lawyer always requests cell phone records in these types of cases.
Attorney Robert Horst says, “Distracted driving laws are sufficient if they can be proven. Distracted driving still needs to be proven and most times it isn’t practical, so police officers won’t issue or prosecute the violations unless it was specifically witnessed by the officer. However, as a personal injury attorney, I always request the cellular phone records of the at fault party because it usually shows that the individual was either texting, on Facebook, or talking to someone in violation of the distracted driving laws. The benefit to proving this in a civil case is that plaintiffs can then pursue punitive damages which may lead to a much larger jury verdict.”
Do not try to be your own lawyer if you’ve been injured. A personal injury lawyer handles these types of cases routinely and knows the law, the courts, and the insurance companies. An experienced personal injury attorney can also help you determine the true monetary value of your claim, while many insurance companies will offer you a quick settlement at a much lower amount. Let your attorney handle your case and the settlement negotiations while you concentrate on recovering from your injuries and regaining your health.
WHAT ABOUT OTHER DRIVING DISTRACTIONS?
Texting, of course, is not the only way that drivers are distracted. While many of us enjoy taking our pets with us on drives and errands, the reality is that driving with a pet can be quite hazardous. If your pet distracts you and that distraction causes a collision, the pet could be hurt badly or even lost. But drivers who leave both their pets and their cell phones at home may still face a variety of possible distractions.
Do not be distracted while you drive by eating, grooming, or even by reading billboards. In a survey conducted by the PEMCO Mutual Insurance Company, more than half of the drivers responding admitted to eating while driving.
Back in 2009, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study determined that eating while driving raises a motorist’s chances of being involved in a crash by eighty percent. It can sometimes take real determination and willpower to keep your complete attention focused on the driving task, and you can never let down your guard.
If you have sustained injuries caused by a distracted driver in Central Florida, obtain medical attention immediately, and then discuss your options with an Orlando personal injury lawyer who can examine the details of your claim and provide the legal guidance you need. You have a limited amount of time to file a personal injury claim after a traffic collision in Florida, so do not wait to discuss your case with an experienced auto accident attorney.