Florida Injury Attorney Looks at NHTSA Blueprint for Combatting Distracted Driving

This week marks an important milestone for the State of Florida's safe driving policy. As a distracted driving law firm, we welcome October 1st as the day Florida's Ban on Texting and Driving take effect. As noted by WMBB, the texting and driving ban includes a fine of $30 that increases to around $110 with various fees.

The Statistics on Distracted Driving and the NHTSA's First Steps

What remains to be seen is whether the ban is effective in combatting the texting probe. In June 2012, the National Highway Traffic Safety Association ("NHTSA") focused on similar concerns when it released "The Blueprint for Ending Distracted Driving." The booklet looks to build on knowledge gathered since 2009, when former Secretary Ray LaHood launched an effort to bring an end to distracted driving. In the introduction, the NHTSA notes that 3,000 deaths each year result from driver distraction, including manual, visual, and cognitive distraction. For context, texting while driving involves all three.

Another interesting statistic – observational surveys suggest that, in any given daylight moment, more than 100,000 drivers are texting and more than 600,000 are holding phones their ears. Young drivers are most prone to texting while driving and are also less likely to speak up if they are travelling with a driver who is texting. A typical text takes the driver's eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds – at 55mph, sending or receiving a text is like the driver closing their eyes while travelling the length of a football field.

For the 3-year period prior to the Blueprint, the NHTSA partnered with the states to begin addressing the problem of distracted driving, including the texting issue. This included several key strategies: raising awareness, introducing public policies and laws on distraction (including laws banning texting on the state level, policies prohibiting federal employees from texting while driving government vehicles, and rules aimed at pilots), and research and development.

Key Focus Areas in the NHSTA's Plans for Combatting Distracted Driving

The Blueprint made several recommendations aimed at reducing distraction going forward. One key area of focus is enacting and enforcing tough state laws. This is important since NHTSA studies have shown that, when coupled with both education and enforcement efforts, good laws do influence drivers to change their cell phone habits. Another focal area involves working with technology, including guidelines for tools built-in to vehicles and those purchased separately.

This arm of the Blueprint also includes the continued development of advance crash warning systems and other vehicle-based technology that can minimize the impact of distraction and monitor driver behavior. A sub-section of the technology effort is the continued development of science-backed studies to examine driver behavior and crash risk. The Blueprint also calls for efforts focused on young drivers, including improved driver education and social media campaigns. More generally, the NHTSA also calls for community involvement and advocacy efforts.

The Ultimate Goal: Responsibility

As a Panama City injury law firm, we want to emphasize one of the final points in the Blueprint – responsibility. Ultimately, as the NHTSA notes, "Distraction-affected crashes are preventable. Distracted driving does not just happen – it is a choice." Laws, research, and education are all important, but it all boils down to the decisions made by each and every person who sits behind the wheel. If someone else's choices left you injured or claimed the life of a loved one in the Florida Panhandle region, call our office. Together, we can hold distracted drivers responsible for the harm they cause.

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