As a personal injury attorney in St. Petersburg, I see daily the dangers of distracted drivers. I have countless clients who come to me after being injured by drivers and are angry that the law does not provide more serious penalties for the careless or reckless actions of the other driver. Anyone heading to work in the morning in St. Petersburg or anywhere in Pinellas County has certainly observed distracted drivers. From the men who shave with electric razors while driving, to women who put on make up while behind the wheel, to the host of problems that arise with cell phones, GPS devices, and texting; there are a number of reasons why a driver can be distracted and thus, a danger to themselves or others.
The State of Florida via the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles has launched an educational program aimed at eliminating or reducing motor vehicle crashes. The program focuses on educating the public about the dangers of driving while distracted. Distracted driving is a lead cause of auto accidents in St. Petersburg in Pinellas County and throughout the State. Countless auto accidents, motorcycle accidents, pedestrian accidents and bicycle accidents are caused by the epidemic of distracted drivers annually. Due to the continued problems with drivers being distracted behind the wheel, the State decided to launch a program to focus on these dangers. The program has been named “Focus On Driving” and is being carried out by providing educational materials and social media blasts.
The program defines distracted driving as anything that takes one’s hands off of the wheel, takes one’s eyes off of the road or distracts one’s mind from focusing on driving. It is a broad term, but generally defines the types of behavior that puts everyone on the road in danger. It creates three categories of driver distraction:
- Visual– taking your eyes off of the road;
- Manual– taking your hands off of the wheel;
- Cognitive– thinking about anything other than driving.
We are all likely guilty of committing some type of distracted driving at some point. The level of distracted driving clearly varies by situation. DHSMV has pointed out that texting while driving is actually the most dangerous type of distracted driving behavior because it involves all three types of distraction.
According to DHSHMV, common distractions include tending to children in the car, eating, staring at something going on off the road, interacting with passengers, unrestrained pets, adjusting the radio, changing the temperature, looking at a GPS device, looking at the phone, or even simply daydreaming.
The reason why distracted driving is so dangerous is that when a driver is not focused on what is happening on the road, it limits the driver’s ability to come to a stop and avoid a crash. To avoid a crash, a driver must be able to perceive a hazard, react to the hazard and give the vehicle time to stop. According to the educational statistics, if a driver is going 50mph, it will still need 268 feet, or nearly the distance of a football field to come to a complete stop after seeing the danger, reacting to it and then having the vehicle stop. This is the reason why a distracted driver’s lessened ability to navigate a road condition is much more of a risk to those on the road.
If you have been in an accident and suspect the other driver was distracted, there are ways that we can attempt to uncover the truth. We regularly ask for the other driver’s cell phone number and can subpoena the data to determine what the person was doing with the phone at the time of the crash. In serious cases or fatalities, this information may already have been obtained by law enforcement.
If you are on the road in St. Petersburg or Pinellas County, please be safe. Be aware that other drivers may be distracted and take cautionary steps to protect yourself before you are injured.