Cell Phones and Auto Accidents

In the State of Florida, many people use cell phones while driving. Florida currently imposes no restrictions on cell phone or texting behavior in automobiles. That will change in October, but for now on any given day, another motorist may wave you at you to get your attention because you have your cell phone against your ear. Many cars also sport a “hang up and drive” bumper sticker, showing the car owner’s distaste for the use of cell phones while driving.The other driver does not trust you and for good reason.

Some people equate cell phone use with drunk driving, if only because the cell phone users are about as aware of their surroundings as an intoxicated individual behind the wheel. Cell phone users in parking lots weave around pedestrians and pull into spots without making eye contact, touching their brakes or otherwise acknowledging the presence of others. Let us face it: cell phone use is about being absorbed in communicating with someone not currently present. Cell phone users behind the wheel may be a threat to others. Study after study has demonstrated that those that are using their cell phones while they drive are more likely to suddenly slow down—that in fact those drivers that have their phone in hand almost always slow down to unsafe speeds while reading the screen. Additionally, the distraction of the cell phone leads to increases in sudden lane changes and other unsafe behaviors as drivers realize in an instant that they need to get into another lane, or make a turn, or perform some other maneuver in their car.

Some studies indicate that cell phone use while driving increases the likelihood of an accident by 400 percent. When Florida Governor Rick Scott signed into law a texting-while-driving act that takes effect in October, he stated that texting drivers were 23 times more likely to be involved in an accident. Tens of thousands of deaths have been attributed to cell phone use behind the wheel resulting in crashes and over a billion injuries have resulted nationwide. With a situation such as this, many states and even local jurisdictions are moving to not only craft new legislation to deal with these cases, but also strengthening the penalties on laws that already exist, since the current restrictions and their penalties don’t have the depth of effect that lawmakers hoped for when creating the legislation.

The texting while driving ban in the State of Florida that is set to go into effect in October can be brought to bear on drivers who engage in the unsafe activity, but the habit of texting is copious and widespread, according to both statistics and obvious anecdotal evidence. Accidents resulting from this behavior are not likely to slow down for years, even with states increasingly passing laws and developing stiff penalties. Who doesn’t reach for the cell phone instinctively when they receive a text, even if they are in the car? The instinct is so ingrained that many people who are otherwise very cautious and careful drivers have fallen victim to the insidious temptation of looking “just for a moment.”
Florida has no ban on hand-held cell phone use, and the ban on texting is a secondary offense, meaning a police officer will need a primary reason to pull a driver over before they can add a charge of texting in Florida. That single detail restricts law enforcement from taking phones away from drivers who are using them improperly; in some jurisdictions that are taking the law more seriously, laws may exist that allow police officers to seize the cell phone as part of a case, as well as getting phone records to prove that a text message was being sent at the time that the defendant was apprehended. On the other hand, in some instances a driver may not be charged with texting while driving until the driver is charged with vehicular homicide. In such cases, the plaintiffs need a good auto accident attorney.

When a texting driver has struck someone, the driver can be sued for gross negligence and reckless disregard or indifference of others; and if the driver is in a company vehicle, action can be taken against the company. In these cases, it can be particularly important and extremely useful to retain the services of an auto accident attorney. Judges are beginning to award punitive damages to plaintiffs in texting-while-driving cases, meaning plaintiffs can be compensated well for their pain and suffering due to the actions of the irresponsible driver.

Causes of Automobile Accidents

A car accident is often a traumatic incident for everyone involved. While some accidents are unavoidable, there are many precautions you can take to decrease the likelihood of your having to enlist an auto accident attorney, let alone dealing with possible injuries. Here are some of the things you should stay away from if you want to drive as safely as possible.

Texting has become a huge problem for those on the road. Because people are so attached to their phones now, it seems natural to continue texting while behind the wheel, but this is an extremely dangerous activity. Your eyes should be on the road at all times, and they simply can’t be if you keep glancing at your phone and typing out messages. The easiest way to avoid this issue is to leave the phone at home or keep it turned off. Even just talking on the cell phone while driving is unsafe, so resist the temptation. In addition, many states have laws on the books that make texting and talking while driving an offense that can be punished; if nothing else, it is a good idea to avoid the liability that comes with using your phone while driving, as it can contribute to a decision of fault in the case of an accident.

If possible, try not to drive with obnoxious passengers. Of course, this is not an issue that is entirely within your control, especially if you are a parent and the unruly ones are your kids. However, the more noisy and raucous your passengers are, the more likely it is that you will be distracted and miss something important on the road. If you must drive with others who are inclined to be disruptive, find ways to encourage good behavior and learn how to tune out the chatter. In the case of driving with your children as passengers, try to provide them with stimulating activities that will take up their attention during the trip, so that they do not become bored and unruly.

Any auto accident attorney can tell you that one of the most serious issues when it comes to safe driving is drinking alcohol. Despite the wide awareness of how dangerous it is to drive while under the influence, many people still do it. If you go someplace where you plan to drink, make sure that you have a designated drive or another exit strategy. For instance, have a friend drop you off at the bar and then plan to take a cab home. If your senses are impaired, you should not be driving. Even if you are not over the legal limit, your ability to accurately judge conditions around you that are important to driving safely can become compromised. And of course if you are involved in an accident while impaired, there can be even greater consequences than are typically found in car accident cases, which can seriously restrict your ability to receive compensation for injuries or damage to your own vehicle.

Finally, one of the greatest hazards in driving is doing so without a seatbelt. This strap may seem like a nuisance, leading many people to not bother with it, but it can save lives. Many people who walk away from car accidents with minor injuries learn from their doctor that they probably would have been seriously injured or killed had they not been strapped in. When this simple action that causes minimal discomfort is so capable of protecting a person from catastrophic injury, it’s sheer foolishness not to take advantage of it. Buckle up as soon as you get in the car. Additionally, do what you can to ensure that others who are riding with you use their seatbelts as well. While it may not be as easy to enforce with adult passengers as with children, try to establish firm rules for your car if it is possible and refuse to provide individuals with a ride if they will not keep their seatbelt fastened.

There are many other issues that contribute to damages and injuries in car accidents, but this list contains four of the most common ones. If you have questions about other ways to avoid an accident, get in touch with a local driver instruction program; they frequently have information available for drivers of all levels of experience that is helpful. Be vigilant in keeping yourself safe when you are on the road. If you do get into an accident, make sure to retain the services of an attorney to assist in your claims.

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