With balmy breeze whipping through your hair as you cruise down the sunny palm tree-fringed highways of Florida, it’s easy to forget our state’s roadways have a big problem—distracted driving.
The Florida Department of Transportation defines distracted driving as any type of mental or physical activity that takes the driver’s focus off the task of driving. Distract driving behaviors could include anything from using GPS systems to eating fast food while behind the wheel. But there’s one type of distracted driving in Florida that trumps all others—texting and driving.
Texting and driving is the number one cause of accidents in Florida, even beating out driving under the influence of alcohol. In fact, a driver who is texting may be up to six times more likely to cause a crash than a drunk driver.
Every year, thousands of accidents are caused by drivers who are distracted by texting. Despite this, studies show that as many as one in five adults text while driving.
It was only a couple of years ago that Florida first outlawed texting and driving, joining the 41 other states that already had this law in place. The ban prohibits drivers from using their phones to text or email while driving, unless they are using them to report criminal activity. Drivers are also permitted to their phones to listen to music or text-to-talk systems.
While this ban may be a step in the right direction, experts agree Florida distracted driving laws still have a long way to go. Currently, texting while driving is only a secondary offense, which means police can’t pull drivers over for it, though they can issue a texting while driving citation if they pull drivers over for another offence.
The ban is difficult to enforce, since it’s often difficult for officers to determine whether a driver is texting or using a phone for a permissible activity such as operating a GPS system.
In order to improve Florida’s distracted driving laws, government officials have proposed new bills that would take the texting ban a step further. Click the link for a more in-depth review of the the florida distracted driving law as it currently stands (prior to 2015 legislative session).
If the bills are passed, texting while driving would become a primary offense and cause enough for police to pull drivers over. The bills may also introduce harsher penalties for texting and driving in a school zone, and as well as texting and driving that results in a fatal accident.
While they would certainly discourage drivers from texting and driving, these new laws alone would not be able to solve Florida’s distracted driving problem entirely. For that to happen, the local public perception needs to change. People need to recognize distracted driving for what it is—an incredibly dangerous act that can cause fatal accidents, equal to or even more perilous than drinking under the influence or without a seatbelt.
If you have been involved in a car accident caused by a distracted driver, contact an auto accident attorney from the law office of Neufeld, Kleinberg & Pinkiert, PA. Our seasoned legal team can help you defend your rights and hold dangerous drivers accountable, while helping raise public awareness to Florida’s serious distracted driving problem.