In November 2018, the Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle Department (FHSMV) issued its 2017 driving statistics. Distracted drivers were responsible for 234 fatalities and more than 15,000 injuries of which 3,096 were incapacitating. Every day in Florida, there were 136 distracted driving accidents.
Distracted driving falls into three categories: Visual, manual, and cognitive.
Visual. You take your eyes off of the road. Examples of visual distractions include:
- “Rubber necking” when you pass an accident or any other event you pass and look at while you are driving.
- Looking in the mirror to check your hair, lipstick, etc.
- Looking at your GPS.
Even looking away from the road for two seconds is dangerous. It actually turns out to be more than two seconds, since it takes a little time for your eyes to reacclimatize to the road when you look back up.
Manual. You take a hand off of the steering wheel. Examples are:
- Adjusting the radio.
- Talking on your cell phone without a hands-free device.
- Eating or drinking.
- Dealing with children.
- Prepping your hair, putting on lipstick, shaving, or any other personal grooming that involves the use of one hand that is not on the steering wheel.
- Picking up an object that fell on the seat or the floor.
Cognitive. You take your mind off of your driving. This can happen even when your hands stay on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road. Examples include:
- Listening intently to music, to someone reading a book, to someone on the other end of the cell phone, or to a passenger.
- Thinking about work.
- Mentally planning your next day off or your upcoming vacation.
- Any mental distraction.
Amy Mercer, Executive Director of the Florida Police Chiefs Association, FPCA, says, “Distracted driving is one hundred percent preventable, but too many choose not to focus on the road ahead. Today, I urge drivers across the state to put safety first and help protect Florida’s roads from danger.” It is important to note that distracted driving is a form of vehicular negligence, and a distracted driver will be on the hook for any damages they cause.
Texting While Driving and Florida Law
Texting while driving involves all three types of distractions: Eyes off of the road to look at the screen, hand off the wheel to either type in the text or click an icon to reveal the message, and mind off of driving while reading the message or texting. This makes it one of the most dangerous distracted driving events.
Under Florida law, it is illegal to text while driving. It is considered a secondary offense, which means law enforcement cannot cite you for texting unless they pull you over for another driving infraction. However, Florida is on a mission to reduce the number of distracted drivers and is on a campaign for drivers to “arrive alive.”
If you’ve been injured due to a distracted driver, you should seek legal counsel immediately! A lawyer can help you navigate the complexities of dealing with insurance companies and medical professionals, in order to make you whole again.