Despite Sharp Increases in Distracted Driving Crashes Across Florida and Palm Beach County, State Legislators Still Fail to Take Action on Distracted Driving

As a recent article in the Palm Beach Post reminds Florida drivers, distracted driving is an affliction that is only becoming more and more prevalent on the roads of Palm Beach County as well as across Florida. According to records obtained by the newspaper from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, the number of accidents in which distracted driving was a primary cause is increasing, both in Palm Beach County as well as across Florida. The records reflected the number of accidents statewide in which distracted driving was a factor increased by 10 percent from 2015 to 2016, while those same statistics showed an increase of 9 percent in Palm Beach County over the same period.   Statewide, injuries in accidents involving distracted driving increased 16 percent to 78,723 and the number of deaths caused by distracted driving increased 13 percent to 1,591 in 2016 compared to 2015. This increase in distracted driving was even more pronounced in Palm Beach County, which saw an increase of 45 percent in the number of motor vehicle accidents in which someone was texting. Nationwide, texting is estimated to be involved in 6 percent of U.S. accidents and cell phone use generally (including talking on the phone) was estimated to be a factor in 26 percent of crashes nationwide in 2015 according to a study compiled by safety organization the National Safety Council. Despite these sobering statistics, Florida state legislators still failed to take action to make the penalties associated with engaging in texting and other forms of distracted driving by Florida motorists more onerous during the most recent legislative session.

Florida Law Regarding Distracted Driving and the Penalties Associated with Distracted Driving in Florida

Under Florida law, texting while driving is considered what is known as a “secondary” offense, meaning that a driver cannot be ticketed for texting while driving unless he or she is first pulled over or ticketed for a different, or primary, offense like speeding. Florida is one of less than five states where police cannot pull over a driver specifically for texting while driving. Nevertheless, if a driver is cited for texting while driving, it can cost the driver an additional $30 fine ($116 in Palm Beach County) in addition to whatever primary offense the driver is cited for.

Distracted driving can also be an extremely costly endeavor for someone who causes an accident while texting, talking on a cell phone or engaging in any other form of distracted driving. Under Florida law, a driver who hits another vehicle while texting or talking on the phone can be ticketed for careless driving (which will set the driver back $179 plus whatever fees the relevant jurisdiction also tacks on for careless driving citations) and also results in points on the distracted driver’s license.

In addition to these penalties, distracted driving can also result in civil lawsuits against the distracted driver and his or her insurer. The distracted driver can be personally sued, and found personally liable for, any damages in excess of his or her policy limits. Therefore, a simple text message can not only lead to a motor vehicle accident but could lead the distracted driver to be on the hook for thousands of dollars in fines and damages.

Contact the Experienced Motor Vehicle Accident Attorneys of Schwed, Adams, Sobel & McGinley if You Have Been Injured by a Distracted Driver in Palm Beach County or Elsewhere in Florida

Although distracted driving is increasingly becoming a more common phenomenon both locally in Palm Beach County as well as across the state of Florida more generally, the experienced personal injury and motor vehicle accident attorneys at Schwed, Adams, Sobel & McGinley are here to assist you if you have been injured in a motor vehicle accident in which distracted driving played a part. Our personal injury attorneys have over 150 years of combined legal experience representing those who have been victims of motor vehicle accidents, including accidents in which distracted driving was a contributing factor. If you, a family member or a loved one has been injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident in which another driver was texting, talking on the phone, or engaging in some other form of distracted driving, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed Adams today for a free consultation at contact@schwedlawfirm.com or 877.694.6079.

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