As laws catch up to reflect the times, special attention continues to be drawn on the benefits and dangers of technology. Most drivers are aware of the threats posed by texting and driving, but some believe any use of a cell phone is safe as long as it is not an actual conversation via texting. Today's generation of teenagers are especially well-versed in the usage of cell phones, and their familiarity with the devices yields a level of confidence that should not be a part of their journeys on the road, but it is. Distracted driving no longer is synonymous with strictly texting and driving. We are seeing more and more drivers using their phones regularly to check social media accounts, update GPS routes, track notifications and alerts, and even record videos.
WPTV reported just last week that a 20-year-old male finally turned himself into authorities months after a fatal accident he caused in St. Cloud, Florida. Hunter Black has been charged with two counts of vehicular homicide for causing the deaths of a mother and her teenage son. Black was recording a Snapchat video of himself running a red light when the impact happened. The victims died on the scene. Even more shocking is that Black made about a dozen videos of him running stop signs and speeding prior to the incident, and he was driving with a suspended license when this accident took place. This is a prime example of how the mind frame of distracted drivers has changed. With our culture's insatiable desire to live life through a screen, distracted driving is taking on different forms other than responding to a text, and the consequences are even worse.
Types of Distracted Driving
In addition to texting while driving, distracted driving can also include the following actions:
- Physically interacting with passengers
- Personal grooming habits
- Adjusting vehicle settings like temperature or music
- Manually updating GPS
- Dealing with unrestrained pets
- Talking into a handheld device
- Using your smartphone to take pictures/video while driving
- Interacting with social media
Levels of Distracted Driving
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) is working with the Florida Department of Transportation to promote the “Focus on Driving” campaign. The purpose of the campaign is to bring awareness to the dangers of distracted driving. The FLHSMV identifies three levels of distracted driving:
- Visual: any instance when your eyes are not on the road while driving
- Manual: any instance when your hands are not on the steering wheel while driving
- Cognitive: any instance when you are driving while thinking about anything other than driving the vehicle you are operating
The FLHSMV finds that cell phone usage while driving is especially dangerous because it uses all three levels of distracted driving at once. For example, if you are using your phone to check social media, you are visually impaired because your eyes are on the phone, you are manually impaired because your hands are navigating the app, and you are cognitively impaired because you are thinking about the actions you perform on the phone as you do them.
What are Florida's Laws on Distracted Driving?
Due to Florida Statutes Section 316.305, law enforcement can stop and issue citations to drivers that are texting and driving. This states a driver cannot operate a vehicle while typing any symbol into a wireless device to communicate with others.
With Florida Statutes Section 316.306, it is prohibited to use a wireless device in a handheld manner in a school or work zone. This also includes using a wireless device while driving in an active work zone, or an area of construction where workers are present and working on or around the work zone.
How Does Florida Punish Distracted Drivers?
- First Offense: Results in $30 fine plus court fees
- Second Offense: Results in $60 fine plus court fees and three points added to driving record
- Commercial Drivers: Fine of up to $2,750 depending on prior offenses
- Three violations in three years: Lose Commercial Drivers License
How To Prove Distracted Driving in Florida
If you or a loved one are struck by a distracted driver, your best bet of receiving compensation for your injuries is to prove that the other driver was distracted. First, prove that the driver had a breach of duty when he or she made a poor decision that caused distracted driving. Next, prove the causation to explain the link between that driver's actions and your injuries or damage to your property. Lastly, provide proof of actual damages with photographs, police reports, and medical bills.
Although there are fewer drivers on the road due to the pandemic, these numbers will continue to change as the state slowly opens back up. Be cautious on the roads because the traffic around you might be less busy, but it's no less likely to cause an accident. If you are the victim of a car accident caused by distracted driving, contact Keller, Melchiorre, and Walsh today to discuss your needs with a trusted lawyer.