April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month in Florida, and the Sunshine State badly needs it. In a 2017 study, Florida ranks second in the country for distracted driving, only coming in behind Louisiana. This is from the online insurance firm EverQuote. The study analyzed approximately 2.7 million vehicle trips, which accounted for over 230 million miles driven.
In the study, drivers were given a device called the EverDrive, which is a type of motion-sensing app. This device measures a person’s speed, acceleration, and turning while the driver’s phone is being used. It can tell whether a person speeds, turns aggressively, or banks hard.
The device, however, does not measure movements while the phone is in sleep mode or while it is being used with a hands-free device.
The insurance firm found from the study that approximately 92% of all drivers in the country with cell phones have used them while driving a car at least once in a 30-day period.
The device scored drivers on a point system, and Florida drivers received the second-worst score for driving while using their cell phones.
According to Florida’s department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, in 2016 there were approximately 50,000 vehicle crashes which involved a distracted driver. That is an incredible 5 crashes every hour.
Unfortunately, these distracted driving accidents were responsible for more than 3,500 seriously injured people and over 230 deaths. Given these statistics, texting and driving has basically become just as bad as drinking and driving. Moreover, according to recent reports, it seems that distracted driving is on the rise. This is all despite the fact that there are many media campaigns to make the public aware about the dangers of texting and driving.
What is even more worrisome is that these figures may actually be lower than reality. According to Sgt. Mark Wysocky, people may be too worried about the repercussions about reporting that they were using their cell phone while driving.
Distracted driving can be a number of things. There are three general categories of driver distractions. The first is visual, which means taking your eyes off the road. Next is manual, which happens when you take your hands of the wheel. Last is cognitive, which is when you are not actively thinking about driving.
Texting is such an issue because it includes all three types of distracted driving, thus making texting while driving such a dangerous behavior. This puts texting while driving on par with other bad behaviors such as drunk driving. Unfortunately, unlike drunk driving, texting while driving is still seen as socially acceptable.
Drivers must be able to constantly interact with the road. Each driver must be able to perceive a road hazard, react to it, and stop in time. If a driver is distracted, however, the person will not have the time necessary to contemplate the hazard and react to it. To think about it another way, a careful driver going 50 mph will have to travel almost the length of a football field to come to a complete stop. That means that a person needs a lot of time to react to hazardous road condition.
So why are the statistics so bad?
Part of the reason could be that Florida is only one of five states where texting while driving is not a primary offense. That means that police officers cannot pull a person over for simply texting a driving, they need another reason for stopping that person. The only other states to have this law are Ohio, Nebraska, Iowa, and South Dakota.
Still, lawmakers are trying to figure out ways to get the distracted driving statistics down. With all of the new technology out there, many lawmakers are considering trying to use a device to help solve the dilemma.
An Israeli company has created a device called the Textalyzer, which is a hand-held, roadside cell phone, data extraction device. The effect would essentially be giving cops a type of breathalyzer, which would be able to quickly and cleanly determine whether a person was on his or her phone while driving.
Essentially, a police officer would be able to analyze a driver’s phone to see if that person was using it recently. For example, the officer would be able to quickly and easily see whether the driver in question texting had been recently, on a phone call, or been looking at his email.
If the driver refuses the officer’s request to hand over his phone, he could face the same penalties as someone who does not agree to a breathalyzer. He could quickly have his license suspended.
The Textalyzer may not yet be a reality, but the Florida car accident lawyers at Wolfson & Leon fundamentally understand the importance of the police using such technology and the serious legal implications of it. Much of this law can be seen as a grave concern for a U.S. citizen’s fundamental privacy rights.
For example, police currently need a warrant from a magistrate judge to obtain a person’s cell phone records. Moreover, police need a warrant to obtain data from a personal computer. Given the fact that people’s smartphones are essentially miniature computers, one could very reasonably argue that the police would need a warrant to obtain data from a person’s smartphone.
Moreover, there could be a serious question over just how well the device would work. Would the device be able to correctly determine the difference between a person’s illegal use of their cell phone and a person’s legal use of their cell phone? For example, a person using hands-free calling, music apps, or speech-to-text are all legal. So, would the device be able to tell the difference between when a person uses their phone with a hands-free device? Or would it confuse the situation? Such differences would make a key difference in a person’s case.
To conclude, Florida’s laws are constantly changing, and you need a law firm with experienced attorneys who know the ins and outs of the state’s legal system. The Florida personal injury lawyers at Wolfson & Leon have offices in Miami, Fort Myers, Fort Lauderdale and West Palm Beach. We offer free consultations at 305-285-1115 and we are happy to answer any questions or assist you after your accident caused by a distracted driver in Florida.