Distracted Driving in Florida & Possible New Federal Guidelines

Everyone knows texting and driving is dangerous.  But did you know it is illegal in Florida?  And of course lots of people say, “Texting,” when what they really mean is sometimes texting, sometimes reading and answering email, and sometimes full-blown web-surfing.

It’s not just opinion.  A Virginia Tech study shows that texting, web-browsing, and simply dialing a cell phone distracts drivers.  On average, their eyes stay off the road for an average of 23 SECONDS—which more than doubles the chance of an accident.   See the full report here.

Yet in Florida—and in other states– ‘Distracted Driving’ is a secondary offense.  That means that Florida police are forbidden from pulling anyone over simply because they observe them “DWD,” or “Driving While Distracted.”  And even if a driver is cited—the offense is relatively minor.

See cell phone laws by state.

The NHTSA began evaluating distracted driving in 2010, and since then traffic fatalities have continued to rise.  According to the NHTSA’s guidelines, there were 35,092 traffic fatalities in the U.S. in 2015, and 3,477 of them—that’s about 10%– involved a distracted driver.  That’s an almost 9% increase from the prior year, 2014.

And injuries?  The NHTSA reports that in 2014 there were 5.6 million crashes reported to police across the nation, of which 16% were directly caused by distracted drivers.  424,000 injuries were caused in these accidents.

And yet, drivers continue to court disaster by continuing to utilize their phones while operating a motor vehicle.  But new NHTSA issued guidelines seem absolutely intended to curb the dangerous trend of distracted driving—whether drivers like it or not.

Proposed Driver Mode

The NHTSA has issued two phases of guidelines before that dealt with issues like simplifying the interface of vehicle functions and pairing of cell phones to vehicle audio and video systems.  But the latest guidelines propose something new—Driver Mode.

This mode would prohibit someone operating a motor vehicle from using some functions on their mobile device—texting, social media, browsing the internet, playing videos, and more.  And this vehicle mode could be automatically engaged as soon as the device recognizes that it is being used by a driver.   The technology to do this would need to be adapted, but in the meantime the NHTSA doesn’t want drivers to wait.  It recommends driver mode be available on phones as soon as possible, and that drivers become used to implementing the mode themselves—similar to airplane mode.

It is important to remember that these are only guidelines—and that the NHTSA has jurisdiction over motor vehicles only—not over cell phones or their manufacturers.

It should be noted, though, that NHTSA has no jurisdiction over anything but motor vehicles, and cannot force mobile device makers to install such software.  So until technology is adopted to change this by all those concerned—or until the unlikely event that drivers change their habits—distracted driving will unfortunately remain a big factor in causing vehicle accidents.

If you are hit by another vehicle being driven by someone who is on their phone talking, texting, or browsing, your chances of winning compensation from that driver are increased substantially.

A Florida accident attorney can help you make a case against the other driver.  It is true that distracted driving in and of itself is a minor offense—but can serve as strong evidence to assign fault.

Have you or a loved one been injured in a motor vehicle accident with a distracted driver in Florida?

If so, the attorneys at Thomas and Pearl want to speak to you.   Thomas and Pearl have the staff to investigate accidents to help tell your story.  Gathering of eyewitness testimony, recreating accident scenes, looking at phone records, social media sites, and analyzing police reports are only some of the techniques used by Thomas and Pearl to prove you were in the right.  Plus expert medical opinions regarding your injuries to help justify proper compensation because of the distracted driving of the other vehicle operator.

Before you speak with an insurance company that will attempt to settle your case in their best interest, call Thomas and Pearl.  Your Thomas and Pearl attorney will be there to help you represent your best interests.

$150 MILLION in verdicts and settlements

Thomas & Pearl attorneys have the skills and training, plus the financial resources necessary to conduct a thorough accident and injury investigation.   Ask about our experience as attorneys helping victims of motor vehicle accidents in Florida.

Ask about the more than $150M (MILLION) dollars in recent and past jury verdicts and settlements we have gained for our clients.

We’ll evaluate your case situation with you, develop a strategy to win or successfully negotiate the highest amount of compensation for you.

Experienced legal help can make the difference between a successful resolution and losing.  And you pay nothing unless we get that successful resolution for you.

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