Are Tampa Bay drivers getting into car accidents as a result of distracted driving? According to a study reported in the Sun Sentinel, Florida was recently ranked as the second-worst state when it comes to distracted driving accidents, meaning more accidents happen on Florida's roads and highways as a result of preventable distractions than in all but one other state (Louisiana). The study was conducted by a motion-sensing app called EverDrive, and it determined that Florida drivers often text and drive, or talk on a cell phone while driving, at rates that exceed drivers in other states.
Part of the problem-and the reason for so many distracted driving crashes in Tampa and throughout the state-is that Florida has no ban on hand-held cell phone use behind the wheel, and texting while driving is only a secondary offense. When distracted drivers cause traffic collisions, it is important to hold them accountable for property damage and personal injuries.
Florida's Serious Distracted Driving Problem
In 2016 alone, nearly 50,000 car crashes happened in Florida because of distracted driving. In total, those distracted driving collisions resulted in "more than 3,500 serious injuries and 233 deaths," according to the article in the Sun Sentinel. Some law enforcement officials in the state believe that number is too low. As one law enforcement officer with the Florida Highway Patrol explained, many drivers who are involved in crashes do not offer up information about whether or not they were distracted at the time of the accident. Indeed, as he emphasized, "if people are involved in crashes, they don't want to volunteer the information that, 'Oh, I was on my phone, I was talking, I was texting, I was Facebooking, I was on Instagram."
In other words, if we knew for certain how many drivers were using their phones to talk, text, or post on social media at the time of a collision, it could turn out that distracted driving is responsible for far more accidents and injuries than we currently know. The EverDrive motion-sensing app determined that about 92 percent of drivers throughout the country who have cell phones "used them while in a moving car in the past 30 days." One of the major problems in Florida is that law enforcement cannot stop a driver solely for texting while driving.
Florida's Laws on Cell Phone Use Behind the Wheel
In Florida, it is not illegal to use a hand-held cell phone as it is in many other states. As the Governor's Highway Safety Association (GHSA) explains, there is no hand-held cell phone ban in Florida, there is no ban for novice drivers or school bus drivers, and the text-messaging ban is only a secondary offense.
What is a secondary offense? It means that a driver cannot be stopped for that secondary offense alone. The secondary offense can only be added to the driver's citation if the driver is stopped for a primary offense, such as speeding or running a red light. To be clear, even if a law enforcement official sees a driver texting while driving, that person must be stopped for a primary offense before being cited for texting behind the wheel.
Contact a Car Accident Attorney in Tampa Bay
Were you injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver? Our motor vehicle collision lawyers in Tampa Bay can help with your case. Contact the Wells Law Group, P.A. today for more information.