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Pressure Mounts For Tougher Cellphone Law

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Days before lawmakers heard emotional testimony about the effects of distracted driving at a nonpartisan workshop, a new study pegged Florida as one of the worst such states in the country.

Although the deadline for new bills has already passed for this session, legislators gathered for a House Government Accountability Committee workshop to consider a revised cellphone bill for the next session. Among the witnesses was Demetrius Branca, whose teenage son died in a distracted driving-related crash in 2013. “Anthony may be alive if in 2013 we had decided to do a primary enforcement instead of this toothless secondary enforcement,” he said. Currently, Florida is one of only four states that has a secondary cellphone law, which means that motorists cannot be pulled over simply for texting and driving.

At roughly the same time, a study that looked at over three million drivers concluded that Florida ranked 49th among the states in terms of distracted driving-related crashes. Study author Ryan Ruffing said there was a direct relationship between the weak law and the woeful ranking.

Distracted Driving Statistics

Every year, distracted drivers seriously injure over 425,000 people, a figure that has increased substantially since smartphones began gaining popularity in 2011. In fact, hand-held cellphones bring together all three forms of distracted driving:

  • Visual: At 55mph, most cars travel the length of a football field in the time it takes to send or receive a text message.
  • Manual: Especially in today’s higher-performance automobiles, drivers really do need to keep two hands on the steering wheel at all time to help avoid crashes.
  • Cognitive: Researchers have discovered that drivers are still mentally distracted for almost thirty seconds after they use their cellphones.

To combat this danger, many automakers build cars and trucks with built-in hands-free cellphones. While such devices help drivers keep both their hands on the wheel, these gadgets are actually more dangerous than hand-held phones, because speakerphones still trigger visual and, more importantly, cognitive distraction. Additionally, people who use hands-free phones may have false senses of security and therefore they are apt to take more risks while driving.

Damages Available

All car crash victims are eligible for compensation; the nature and procedure depends on the severity of the collision.

In low-speed crashes that involve mostly property damage, and perhaps a day or two of missed work, victims can obtain compensation for their economic losses, such as lost wages, from their own insurance companies. As a rule of thumb, if your car is driveable, the crash probably falls under the no-fault law.

If the victim sustained a serious injury, additional compensation is available pursuant to Insurance Code Section 627.737. This section defines a “serious” injury as:

  • Permanent and significant loss of an important body function (note that the statute does not say “complete” or “total” loss),
  • Permanent and significant disfigurement or scarring (especially if the scar is on a visible part of the body), and
  • “Permanent injury within a reasonable degree of medical probability,” a rather vague category that could include broken bones and a wide range of other injuries.

The additional damages include compensation for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, emotional distress, loss of consortium (companionship), and other noneconomic damages.

Contact Aggressive Attorneys

Distracted drivers are among the most dangerous negligent operators on Florida roads. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

Resources:

clickorlando.com/getting-results-/driving-change/florida-lawmakers-hear-from-victims-of-distracted-driving

cdc.gov/motorvehiclesafety/distracted_driving/

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