For better or worse, the laws regarding cellphone use and driving in Florida are among the most lenient in the country, which means that drivers across this state aren't motivated to change distracted driving behaviors because of the civil penalties of getting a citation. However, they should still be motivated to put down the phone and focus on driving because of the potentially catastrophic damage that can be done in a distracted driving accident.
Drivers who are texting, browsing the Internet or otherwise using their phone behind the wheel are distracted on three levels, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Visually: People who are on their phones are looking down at what they are reading or typing rather that the road around them. Even if drivers take their eyes off the road for a few seconds, they could travel hundreds of feet without even seeing the cars, pedestrians, traffic lights and other cues and conditions. Those who aren't looking at the road cannot react as quickly and effectively as someone who is.
- Manually: Using a phone requires a person to use one or both hands to scroll, type or click on links. Simply put, if a driver's hands are on a phone, they aren't on the wheel. This can make it extremely difficult to control the vehicle, especially when evasive maneuvers are necessary.
- Cognitively: Even though people think they can multi-task and divide their attention effectively, the fact is that a driver who is paying attention to his or her phone is not focused on the road.
The very troubling thing about cellphone use behind the wheel is that it distracts people on all these levels simultaneously. People can travel for miles without even realizing it or consciously knowing what they did during that time. Did they drive through a traffic light? Was it red? Were there pedestrians around? Sadly, the only way that many people get these answers is if they cause a crash.
Victims of these distracted driving accidents and their families have the right to hold a driver accountable for damages suffered in a crash. Not only can a lawsuit result in compensation, but it can also send a powerful reminder that there are repercussions for dangerous, negligent driving behaviors.