Our cellphones have become such an integral part of our daily lives that it can be difficult at times to put them down. However, this dependence can lead a person to engage in the risky act of texting and driving. When this happens, it is very easy to cause a car accident that injures or kills another person. Florida has recently taken steps to encourage motorists to put down their cellphones while driving.
With the passage of a new law, Florida has recently joined the 43 other states in the nation that makes texting and driving a primary offense. This means that an officer can pull a motorist over and ticket the motorist for texting and driving even if no other traffic violation occurred. Previously, an officer could only ticket the motorist for texting and driving if the initial traffic stop was due to some other violation of the law. The new law also permits officers to ticket motorists who using a wireless communication device in a handheld manner while operating their vehicles in construction zones and school zones.
The impetus for this bill was an uptick in car accidents due to distracted driving. According to the Florida governor, in 2016, the state saw nearly 50,000 accidents in which distracted driving was a factor. Over 3,500 of these collisions resulted in serious injuries and 233 were fatal. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that texting and driving while driving at 55 mph is essentially the same as driving the length of a football field while blindfolded.
While it is good that those who engage in texting and driving will be held criminally responsible, fining a distracted driver does not provide any financial compensation for those injured or killed in a distracted driving accident. Fortunately, these victims can pursue personal injury claims to be compensated for the damages they suffered. Distracted driving can be considered a breach of a motorist's legal duty to drive reasonably under the circumstances. If that breach causes another person to be injured or killed, the negligent motorist may be held civilly liable for the damages they caused.