Extensive media coverage, distracted driving laws, and public safety campaigns that warn of the danger posed by inattentive motorists have focused attention on the danger of inattentive driving. However, crashes that cause debilitating injuries and fatalities which involve multi-tasking motorists continue to occur. A recent WPTC news report provides a chilling account of the degree to which drivers can be distracted by electronic devices. According to the news report, security footage caught a driver in Palm Beach literally jumping the Flagler Bridge after crashing through the warning gate just as the drawbridge began to open. While the accident was still under investigation at the time of the news story, a police spokesman reportedly indicated that the driver was too distracted to notice the warning gate coming down and the drawbridge start to rise. The police reported that the driver was fidgeting with his GPS at the time of the nearly fatal incident.
Although it might seem hard to imagine that a driver could be so distracted he could fail to notice a drawbridge rising, this incident demonstrates the magnitude of risk posed by drivers using portable electronic devices. A study conducted by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI) found that driver’s eyes are averted from the roadway approximately five seconds when texting. During this period of time, a motor vehicle traveling at a speed of 55 mph can cover the length of a football field. The VTTI researchers also found that texting drivers were 23 times more likely to be involved in a collision or a near-crash.
While Florida law includes a universal ban on texting and driving, this recent incident demonstrates the shortcomings of our state’s approach to the use of portable electronic devices by motorists. Although using a cell phone to dial a telephone number, engage in a conversation, surf the internet, post status updates on Facebook, or type an address into GPS while operating a motor vehicle are completely legal practices under Florida law, they are certainly unsafe driving practices. While composing and sending an email on a cell phone and some of these other activities are no safer than texting and driving, there is no limitation on such practices. Drivers who are so distracted they jump drawbridges provide compelling proof of this proposition.
Florida law also falls short in terms of mitigating the risk posed by portable electronic devices in other respects. While text messaging is unlawful, all other types of electronic devices or any activities other than texting do not run afoul of the law. Loopholes in our legal approach to distracted driving even compromise the effectiveness of Florida’s text messaging ban. Since Florida’s ban on texting is only a secondary enforcement law, police cannot pull a driver over merely based on evidence the driver is texting and driving. In other words, the officer must have probable cause of a different traffic violation or other unlawful conduct to stop a driver who is texting. The multitude of lawful uses of a cell phone while driving also undercuts the deterrence value of a secondary enforcement law because it can be difficult to prove the phone was being used for text messaging.
If you have been injured by a distracted driver, the Cressman Law Firm has been taking on large national insurance companies to pursue the fullest compensation for victims injured by negligent and reckless drivers. Mr. Cressman has successfully represented hundreds upon hundreds of clients during the last two decades. If you or someone you love has been the victim of a texting, alcohol impaired, speeding, or otherwise negligent driver, Orlando car accident attorney Mark Cressman invites you to call to schedule a free consultation to learn about your legal rights and obtain a case evaluation by calling us today at (407) 877-7317.