At one point or another, we have all glanced at our phone, composed a text message, stared too long at the GPS, or, in more severe cases, used a cell phone for an extensive period of time to watch a video or read an article while driving. One study cited in this article found that “92 percent of us drive and text in the last 30 days.” Even though the public is well aware of the danger, cell phone use while driving has become increasingly common, and it’s dangerous. Cautious drivers put their phone away or use hands-free devices. Careless drivers not only put themselves in danger but all drivers around them. Last year, according to a Tampa Bay Times article, a family with young children was rear-ended at a high rate of speed by a motorist that was looking at their phone and failed to break in time. The story is heartbreaking, and the accident resulted in the loss of their nine-year-old son.
This month, the Miami Herald reported, the Florida House voted to make texting while driving a primary offense. The vote was 112-2. The law is currently only a secondary offense, and this upgrade, as many are calling it, will allow law enforcement to more effectively curtail mindless driving, despite concerns of racial profiling. Currently, law enforcement can only write a ticket for texting while driving if they pull over a motorist for a primary offense. The bill’s sponsor said law enforcement will no longer have to “wait for that 16-year-old driver to hit somebody, or run a red light, or kill somebody.” The law does not prohibit making phone calls while driving.
The upgraded law could have a greater impact on personal injury cases. Negligence per se is a claim that injured motorists can allege when the person responsible for the accident has broken a law or committed a traffic violation. For example, exceeding the speed limit is legally significant if the motorist responsible for the accident is brought to trial. The same is true of this upgraded law.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, distracted driving claimed the lives of 3,477 people in 2015. Just a few years ago, a bus driver in Tennessee was texting while driving and collided with another school bus. The accident left two young girls and an aspiring teacher dead. According to the Huffington Post, nine Americans die every day from distracted drivers, 341,000 motor vehicle crashes in 2013 involved texting and driving, and cell phone use while driving increase the likelihood of an accident four-fold.
Realizing the dangers of texting and driving, the Florida legislature has taken a step in the right direction. Do not text and drive. Doing so not only puts you and your family at risk, but it also puts the lives of those around you on the road at risk too. Secondary to that concern is the fact that texting and driving could limit your own personal recovery if a jury hears that you yourself were distracted while driving.
If you or a loved one have been injured in a car accident, please contact Bryan W. Crews today, your Orlando personal injury attorney for a free consultation.