Distracted Driving Accidents in Florida: On the Rise and Unlikely to Change Any Time Soon

In honor of Distracted Driving Month in April, the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) recently released statistics showing that 2017 was the worst year on record for accidents involving distracted drivers in Florida. Even though more than 50,000 accidents occurred in 2017 that were attributed to driver inattention, proposed legislation in the Florida Senate that would have made texting a primary offense, for which police officers could pull over and ticket drivers, failed. However, the distracted driving trend does not show any signs of slowing, instead showing an uptick, according to FHP statistics. This is alarming, as the FHP and other Florida law enforcement agencies lack the legal means to adequately fight this problem under current Florida law.  This increasing trend in distracted driving accidents in Florida likely will only increase, as more teenagers, who have grown up using cell phones to text, email and communicate, turn 16 and get their driver’s license each year.

2017: The Worst Year on Record for
Distracted Driving in Florida

A recent FHP compilation of car accident statistics in Florida totaled all instances of distracted driving in the Sunshine State in 2017 and found that more than 50,000 accidents resulted from drivers who were not focused on the road while behind the wheel.  The FHP statistics further reflected that distracted driving crashes have increased 25 percent since 2013. The FHP statistics also showed that the age groups most likely to have caused an accident due to distracted driving were those between the ages of 20 and 29.  FHP officials attributed this to the fact that these drivers were more likely to have grown up with much of the technology that consumes their daily lives, and thus more likely to use a mobile phone to text, send an email or for another purpose when behind the wheel, despite that the consequences of doing so can be injuries or even death to other motorists.

The Attempted Legislative Fix during the
2018 Florida Legislative Session

The 2018 Florida Legislature featured an effort by legislators in both the state House and Senate to attempt to fix, or at least partially resolve, the distracted driving crisis in Florida by giving police officers and other law enforcement personnel increased ability to pull someone over and ticket them for texting while driving.  Under current Florida law, texting while driving is a secondary offense, meaning a person cannot be pulled over simply because a police officer spots the person texting while behind the wheel. Instead, a police officer can only pull the person over for another offense, such as speeding, and then ticket the motorist for both speeding as well as texting while driving.

The proposed bill passed the Florida House but stalled in committee in the Senate, so it never made it to Governor Rick Scott’s desk for his signature. The failed bill’s sponsors have vowed to re-introduce the legislation in the 2019 legislative session beginning in January, but that still leaves at least another eight months during which thousands of distracted driving accidents will needlessly occur in the Sunshine State.

Where Does This Leave Us?

The 2018 Florida Legislature’s failure to pass the proposed legislation crafted to make texting while driving a primary offense is one failed opportunity to stem the growing distracted driving crisis in Florida.  However, this crisis is only likely to worsen. It is not just the growing number of teenagers who turn 16 each year, become eligible to obtain their driver’s licenses and have a 24/7 attachment to their cell phones that will cause an increase in the number of distracted driving accidents in Florida. After all, the recent FHP statistics found that drivers aged 20-29 were the most likely not to be paying attention when behind the wheel during an accident. The corresponding increase of individuals in these age groups who grew up texting and checking emails at all hours of the day and night will no doubt also result in an increase in the number of distracted driving accidents in Florida.  However, unless the Florida Legislature takes action, this trend is unlikely to slow or even reverse at any time in the near future.

Contact The Experienced Personal Injury Attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A.

As the FHP’s 2017 statistics for distracted driving accidents in Florida clearly demonstrate, distracted driving is only likely to become a more, rather than less, common occurrence in the years to come despite the efforts of some Florida legislators to reverse this trend. Such accidents can have devastating consequences, as a driver who is not paying attention behind the wheel can cause serious injuries or even death to other motorists on the road.

At Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A. our experienced personal injury attorneys have more than 150 years of combined practice, valuable experience which we put to use for all of our clients.  If you, a family member or a loved one has been injured or killed in a motor vehicle accident involving a distracted driver, contact the experienced personal injury attorneys at Schwed, Adams & McGinley, P.A today at 877-694-6079 or contact@schwedlawfirm.com for a free consultation today.

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