As you are probably aware, traffic collisions are still a leading cause of death and serious injury in the United States. About 30,000 traffic accident fatalities happen every year, and about two million people are severely injured in traffic crashes each year.
Serious traffic injuries sometimes lead to permanent disability. Unfortunately, distracted and negligent driving usually have some type of role in nearly every traffic accident and injury.
For example, it is estimated that at any time of the day or night, between five and nine percent of the motorists who are driving in the United States are using a cell phone. Some distractions while driving may be unavoidable, but traffic accidents related to cell phones are both avoidable and unnecessary. Although a growing number of states have restricted cell phone use by motorists, the cell phone law in the state of Florida – in the opinion of many – leaves a lot to be desired.
Florida’s “Ban on Texting While Driving” law went into effect in 2013. The statute forbids drivers from typing anything into a wireless device while driving – including text messages, emails, and instant messages.
However, the law allows for texting at stop lights or during traffic jams, and there is no rule against using talk-to-text programs or against talking on a cell phone while driving in Florida.
WHAT IS THE PENALTY FOR TEXTING WHILE DRIVING IN FLORIDA?
Texting while driving is a “secondary offense” in our state, so you cannot be cited for texting while driving unless the police have stopped you for some other violation. The penalty is a $30.00 fine (plus court costs) for the first offense and a $60.00 fine for a second offense. Georgia, a neighboring state with a somewhat stricter cell phone law, reported 8,581 distracted driving accidents in 2014. Florida reported 42,221 distracted driving accidents in the same year – almost five times as many as Georgia.
Dozens of states have distracted driving laws that are stricter than Florida’s. However, efforts to make the cell phone laws tougher in our state have consistently been unsuccessful in Tallahassee, despite the desire of many Florida drivers for a more sensible approach that deters and that more harshly penalizes distracted driving, reduces the number of distracted driving accidents, and lowers auto insurance premiums. Florida, quite frankly, could do more.
Back in 2010, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) conducted a survey which found that 64 percent of Florida’s drivers believe that distracted driving is the leading traffic safety problem in the state. Although no state funds have been specifically designated to combat distracted driving, the FDOT nevertheless works to reduce distracted driving accidents around the state.
The Florida Department of Transportation:
- increases the awareness and prevention of distracted driving in Florida
- supports proposed distracted driving legislation
- helps and encourages employers to adopt policies that deter distracted driving
- educates the state’s police officers about distracted driving laws, investigations, and evidence
- collection at accident scenes
- conducts distracted driving awareness and enforcement campaigns
IS FLORIDA’S CELL PHONE LAW TOUGH ENOUGH?
However, even in states like New York and California – where all cell phone use by drivers is illegal – lawmakers and public officials are only part of the distracted driving picture. The actual prevention of distracted driving is up to individual drivers without regard to what the law in any state actually says.
Despite Florida’s law against texting and driving, there were 45,740 reported distracted driving accidents in our state in 2015 alone, according to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. Some observers believe that Florida’s cell phone law simply is not strong enough to motivate drivers to change their bad driving habits.
Distracted driving in Florida is responsible for scores of fatalities and thousands of serious injuries every year. Distracted driving is also a leading reason why auto insurance rates are sky-high in our state and continuing to rise. So even when they don’t crash into us, Florida’s distracted drivers impact the rest of us through these higher insurance rates. When they do crash into us, the results can be catastrophic – or fatal.
If another driver’s negligence injures you in South Florida, you are entitled under the law to complete reimbursement for all of your medical care, lost income, and for any other injury-related expenses. Being entitled, however, does not mean that you are simply handed a sum of money. You will have to prove that you were injured by the other driver’s negligence, and you’ll need the help of an experienced West Palm Beach motor vehicle accident attorney.
If you are involved in a South Florida traffic accident with a distracted driver:
- First, seek medical attention and see if others need medical help.
- Call the local police. Make sure that you can obtain a copy of their accident report.
- Exchange your contact and insurance information with the other driver(s).
- Shoot photographs of the crash scene, damage to the vehicles, and your visible injuries.
- Admit nothing and sign nothing. Don’t speak with any insurance company representative.
- After you’ve been seen by a doctor, consult a West Palm Beach personal injury attorney.
HOW ARE MOST PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS RESOLVED?
If you are injured by a distracted driver in South Florida, that driver’s insurance company may offer you a settlement sum that is far below what your injury claim is worth, and the company may try to convince you to take it. Don’t. Instead, let your attorney do the talking and negotiating on your behalf. Most personal injury claims can be settled through out-of-court negotiations, but every case is different, so you’ll need legal advice that is specific to your own situation.
Evidence retrieved from cell phones can be used in personal injury cases, so if you are injured by a motorist who was talking or texting on a cell phone – or by a driver you suspect was using a cell phone – that’s the first thing you should explain to your personal injury lawyer. The statute of limitations for filing a personal injury lawsuit in Florida is four years, but do not wait four years to file a claim.
Witnesses forget details quickly, and evidence deteriorates or disappears over time. If you are injured by a distracted driver in South Florida, put one of our motor vehicle accident lawyers on the case as quickly as possible.