Distracted driving is a significant problem in Florida and throughout the country. Every year, distracted driving – which includes texting while driving – causes hundreds of thousands of car crashes and injuries – and thousands of deaths.
Distracted Driving Statistics are Compelling
According to data provided by Distraction.gov, the official government website, distracted driving statistics are shocking:
- 3,154 deaths
- 424,000 injuries
- Drivers who engage in visual or manual behaviors such as reaching for a phone are 3 times more likely to get into a crash than drivers who do not
- 27% of distracted driving fatalities are caused by drivers in their 20’s (NHTSA)
Texting While Driving
Texting while driving is one of the most dangerous types of distracted driving behavior for two reasons:
- Texting requires taking both eyes off the road, and,
- Texting requires taking at least one hand off the wheel.
“ Five seconds is the average time your eyes are off the road while texting. When traveling at 55mph, that’s enough time to cover the length of a football field blindfolded .” 1
Florida Ban on Texting While Driving
Under Florida Statute 316.305, which was created to “prevent crashes related to the act of text messaging while driving a motor vehicle,” law enforcement officers may stop drivers for texting and driving and issue a citation – but only as a secondary offense. The relevant parts of the statute:
(3)(a) A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as texting, e-mailing, and instant messaging.
(c) Only in the event of a crash resulting in death or personal injury, a user’s billing records for a wireless communications device or the testimony of or written statements from appropriate authorities receiving such messages may be admissible as evidence in any proceeding to determine whether a violation of paragraph (a) has been committed.
(4)(a) Any person who violates paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in chapter 318.
(b) Any person who commits a second or subsequent violation of paragraph (3)(a) within 5 years after the date of a prior conviction for a violation of paragraph (3)(a) commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a moving violation as provided in chapter 318.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is any activity that takes the driver’s attention away from the specific task of driving. This includes a wide variety of activities, including, but certainly not limited to, the following examples:
- Eating while driving. The act of eating requires at least one hand to hold the food. Other eating-related distractions include reaching into a bag, removing food from the bag, unwrapping the food and so forth. There may be other types of distractions, such as topping a sandwich with ketchup, seasoning it with salt, etc. The point is that eating while driving can be extremely dangerous.
- Drinking while driving. This includes every drink, from coffee to soda to water. Coffee drinkers often tear open sugar packets and cream containers. Additionally, hot beverages are risky because if they spill, they can result in severe burns and losing control of the vehicle. And, like eating, drinking requires one hand to hold the cup or container. Any one of these actions can potentially result in losing control of the vehicle.
- Reaching or fumbling for a CD or tape. It is all too common to search for CD’s by looking around on the seat or floor or in a CD container. This diverts the driver’s attention away from controlling the vehicle
- Looking for a radio station while driving. This can be especially dangerous and time consuming with hundreds of stations.
- Turning around to look at the back seat, especially when there are children.
- Talking and engaging with other passengers. This may seem harmless enough, but the reality is that this can be extremely dangerous because the driver is not fully concentrating on driving.
- Engaging in sexual conduct while driving. Obviously, this can be extremely dangerous.
- Pets in the car. Dogs often get excited and run around, and can be extremely dangerous.
Other Distracted Driving Conduct
Distracted driving is anything that takes the driver’s attention away from the specific task of driving. Other examples include:
- Fatigue related – nodding off or falling asleep at the wheel.
- Making phone calls. Holding a phone in one hand and talking reduces attention to driving.
- Looking in the mirror and grooming – putting on makeup, combing hair, etc. In addition to taking one’s eyes off the road, both of these behaviors requires the use of at least one hand.
- Smoking a cigarette or marijuana joint. Requires taking attention away from controlling the vehicle.
- Reaching for glasses or sunglasses.
- Using a GPS navigation system – punching buttons, speaking to the system.
- Watching a movie on the dashboard screen – one of the most dangerous behaviors possible.
- Taking selfies with alone or with passengers.
- Looking at messages or photos on your phone.
- Reading, including maps, while driving.
- Fumbling through a purse or pocket or the glove compartment.
- Looking for or taking medicine while driving.
Potential Consequences for Driving Conduct
As stated above, it is illegal and unsafe to text and drive. Although the fine for a first texting and driving citation is only $30, if a passenger or another driver is injured, a personal injury lawsuit may be filed for damages. Additionally, depending on the particular circumstances, if the driver’s behavior is egregious, he or she may be cited for careless or reckless driving. If a death results while texting and driving and alcohol or drugs are involved, this may result in a serious felony such as vehicular homicide. In fact, there are many potential outcomes that may result from distracted driving.
It is our sincere desire for everyone to drive safely and carefully. However, if you find yourself in a position in which you are charged with a misdemeanor or felony offense, it is advisable to contact an attorney immediately. Do not discuss your case with anyone. Politely ask to speak with your attorney. The earlier you contact your attorney, the faster he can take charge of your case.
Attorney David W. Olson has more than three decades of experience representing thousands of clients charged with felonies and misdemeanors, including DUI, reckless driving, careless driving, drug possession, drug trafficking, sex offenses, theft offenses, assault, juvenile matters and more. Attorney Olson serves clients in West Palm Beach, Palm Beach County, Broward County, Miami-Dade County and throughout the State. For a free consultation call The Law Offices of David W. Olson at 561-833-8866.
Driver Distraction in Commercial Vehicle Operations, Center for Truck and Bus Safety Virginia Tech Transportation Institute,