Personal Injury Lawyers
Tampa, Florida

Florida Father Advocates For Hands-Free Driving Law

A person holding a smart phone while inside a car. Can be used to depict distracted driving or using technology while driving.

Every April, the car accident attorneys at Armando Personal Injury Law recognize Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Since the advent of cell phones and other technology, distracted driving has become a widespread problem across Florida and the United States. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that 3,308 people lost their lives nationwide due to distracted driving in 2022. This highlights the need for a hands-free driving law in Florida.

distracted driving bill Hoped to crack down on cell phone use

A bill to strengthen the state's distracted driving laws was filed in January 2024 after receiving bipartisan support in the Florida House. The bill was known as the "Anthony Branca and Anita Neal Act" (Senate Bill 1408), named after two Floridians who were killed by distracted drivers. State Senator Tracie Davis and Senator Ana Maria Rodriguez both sponsored this bill, which died on March 8 after being referred to the Transportation Committee.

If passed, the bill would have required drivers to keep their hands on the wheel and off their phones, bringing Florida's laws more in line with those of other states. One of the victims for which the bill was named was Anthony, the son of the bill's sponsor, Senator Davis. Anthony lost his life when a distracted driver operating a multi-ton van hit him. Anita Neal, the late sister of Sen. Davis, also lost her life in a similar manner - struck by a distracted driver while jogging, leaving behind a teenage daughter.

How can a hands-free driving law make Florida roads safer?

Studies show the grave dangers of distracted driving. More than a third of drivers involved in crashes were using their smartphones in the minute prior. In Pinellas County alone, there were 15,683 crashes in 2022, which resulted in 123 fatalities. The situation was even more dire in Hillsborough County, which saw 28,360 crashes and 225 traffic deaths. This makes it one of the deadliest large counties for drivers in the U.S.

Currently, Florida law prohibits texting and driving but allows all other cell phone use. This makes it nearly impossible to enforce the state's distracted driving laws. If passed, the proposed bill would have helped to close this dangerous loophole and prioritize the safety of all Floridians on the road. The penalties would have remained similar to those outlined in the original legislation. However, they applied to any hand-held cellphone activities, not just texting. For first-time violations, drivers could have avoided penalties by completing a driving safety course on wireless communications devices administered by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

As it stands, 46 states enforce hands-free cell phone laws, which have contributed to a notable decline in traffic accidents. Research indicates that within six months of implementing laws against hand-held cellphone use while driving, there's a significant 10% to 20% reduction in both collisions and fatalities. The American Academy of Pediatrics has also found that such legislation significantly decreases fatal accidents among teenage drivers in states that adopt and rigorously enforce these rules.

holding negligent drivers accountable

At Armando Personal Injury Law in Tampa, we support implementing a hands-free driving law in Florida. However, since this proposed law was not enacted, drivers will still be responsible for putting their cell phones down and paying attention to the road. When they fail to do so, they can be held accountable through the civil justice system for causing an injury or death.

Our lawyers see the devastation distracted driving causes. As such, we're committed to fighting for the rights of injured motorists, pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists who are hurt due to negligent drivers. If you were hurt in a crash, schedule a free consultation to find out how we can help you. We'll answer any questions you have and help you explore your potential legal options. Contact us today to learn more.

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