New Hands-Free Driving Law Combats Distracted Driving in Florida
Each year, over 400,000 Americans are injured in traffic collisions caused by negligent and distracted drivers. According to EverQuote, Inc., an online insurance marketplace, Florida is the second-most dangerous state when it comes to distracted driving – and for a good reason! In 2016, distracted drivers in Florida were responsible for at least 5 traffic collisions per hour, an alarming statistic that resulted in over 3,500 serious bodily injuries and 233 fatalities.
Why Is Distracted Driving So Dangerous?
A driver owes a duty of care to other motorists sharing the road. In layman’s terms, this means that an at-fault driver can be held legally and financially responsible for another person’s injuries and accident-related losses after a collision.
A distracted driver is a danger to anyone on the road because they are unable to identify potential hazards and avoid otherwise preventable crashes. For example, it takes about 5 (uncoordinated) seconds to type and send a short text message like “OK” or “LOL” while driving. Within those five seconds, a distracted motorist could miss jaywalking pedestrians, slowing vehicles, work zone warnings, and other critical roadway signs.
But distracted driving isn’t limited to smartphones. Many motorists engage in dangerous activities every day without even realizing it. To help you stay safe on the road, the car accident lawyers at The Pittman Firm, P.A. have compiled the following safety tips:
- Prepare a driving route in advance.
- Complete any “multi-tasking” activities – adjusting the radio, mirrors, GPS, etc. – before driving.
- Finish any personal grooming before leaving the house – this includes makeup.
- Avoid using hands-free and wireless devices whenever possible.
- Only use your cell phone for emergency purposes.
- Limit the number of passengers in your vehicle.
- Make sure all children and pets are safely secured.
- Avoid eating and drinking while operating a motor vehicle.
- Do not reach for falling items if you’re driving.
- Pull over if something or someone demands your immediate attention.
Florida’s New Hands-Free Driving Law
Last April, state lawmakers enacted a new hands-free driving law to combat distracted driving in Florida. Not only does this law make texting while driving a primary offense; it also gives law enforcement officials authorization to pull over and cite drivers for using non-hands-free devices while operating a motor vehicle. In the past, the use of a cell phone was a secondary reason to stop a driver. By 2020, a negligent motorist could face costly fines and even license suspension if they’re caught texting while driving on too many occasions.
Per the new law, a driver is prohibited from practicing the following distracted driving behaviors from operating a vehicle:
- Using a hand-held electronic device, such as a smartphone
- Grooming or applying makeup
- Reading or writing (digitally or by hand)
- Interacting with pets or cargo in a way that could result in an accident
Of course, emergency personnel and good Samaritans reporting criminal incidents and/or emergencies are exempt from this policy.
Drivers Must Be Hands-Free in School & Work Zones
As of October 1, 2019, drivers can only use hands-free and wireless devices when driving near schools, school crossings, and active work zone areas. Drivers are also required to stop when a bus is picking up or dropping off students. If caught, a violator could face a $60 base fine – which does not include county and court costs, three points on their license, and a costly insurance hike.
Drivers can be ticketed for using the following devices near schools and work zones:
- Gaming devices
The Pittman Firm, P.A. helps clients navigate the devastating consequences of driver negligence on a near-daily basis. As both attorneys and residents of Florida, we are relieved to hear about this law, as we have personally witnessed drivers flying past stopped buses full of children, oblivious to the potentially deadly consequences.
Have You Been Injured by a Distracted Driver?
Contact The Pittman Firm, P.A. if you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted motorist. Our results-driven legal team can investigate the case, negotiate with insurers, and, if necessary, litigate on your behalf in court to secure a verdict that accounts for your accident-related financial losses.
Contact The Pittman Firm, P.A. at (850) 764-0383 to arrange a free case evaluation today.