Florida drivers have a bad reputation. It’s known far and wide because of our visitor industry. Actually, Florida ranks #17 of the 50 states in terms of per-capita traffic fatalities. We have 16 people killed annually per 100,000 residents. In contrast, the traffic death toll in #1 Montana is 28.2 per 100,000.
However, when all accidents are looked at, Florida does indeed rank as the state with the worst drivers in the nation. Zooming in on fatal accidents caused by cell phone use, Florida is Number One in per capita fatalities. Distracted driving is a major threat to life and property in our state. Cell phones are a major distraction.
Talking on a cell phone, hands-free or otherwise does increase accident risk. However, it’s about the least distracting use in this age of texting, email, navigation, and other apps that are visual. All in all, the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that cell phone use is involved in about 25% of all accidents, and 12% of all traffic fatalities.
INJURY AND NEGLIGENCE
From the standpoint of personal injury claims, cell phone use can be decisive. On the one hand, there are laws on the books in Florida which prohibit drivers from typing on digital devices while operating a motor vehicle. Thus, when a texting driver injures someone there’s a presumption the driver was negligent as a matter of law. In contrast, Florida law permits certain other uses of cell phones while driving. Among these is hands-free use of the navigation app.
Here, while there’s no presumption of negligence, it can still be argued. A driver who looks at a navigation screen for 5 seconds at 55 mph travels 100 yards – a football field! – with eyes off the road. Also,, an AAA study found that when a driver’s eyes return to the road from a device screen, it takes an average of 27 seconds to fully re-engage with the driving task. As road and traffic conditions are more challenging, then, the legal uses of cell phones are more likely constitute a failure to uphold duty of care. That is – negligence.
To further complicate matters, it’s increasingly likely that more than one of the parties to a car accident were using their cell phones at the time. A recent study found what most of us intuitively know. Just about everybody uses their cell phones while driving, and do it all the time. Pedestrians, too, and bicyclists.
THE DIGITAL WORLD
Arguing liability in personal injury cases involving distracted drivers, cyclists, and others is an evolving area of practice. Top car accident lawyers in the field have found ways to mine cell carrier records, vehicle data, and device logs for evidence. The issue extends beyond the roads, too, into all areas of life. Digital life and distraction are everywhere now.