Lawmaker Aims To Strengthen Texting Ban
After her hometown of Boca Raton became the first city in the state to support texting while driving as a primary offense, State Representative Emily Slosberg is on a mission to make the change part of state law.
Her goal is for all 67 counties to pass similar resolutions before the State Legislature reconvenes in January. Currently, Florida is one of the only states in the Union with a secondary texting and driving law, which means that peace officers can only issue citations if the drivers commit other infractions, such as speeding or not wearing a seat belt. Texting while driving, as well as Snapchatting and other non-texting activities, is especially common among younger drivers.
The Democrat hopes that the legislature will prioritize this matter when it settles on its legislative calendar.
Texting while driving gets much of the attention because it combines all three forms of distracted driving, including:
- Visual: When drivers look at a screen and/or keypad, they are not watching the road, except maybe with their peripheral vision.
- Manual: Even the most apt texters take at least one hand off the wheel, and many take both hands off the wheel while sending or receiving such messages.
- Cognitive: Driving requires concentration, and when the operator’s mind is elsewhere, it is almost impossible to multitask while driving (i.e. watching the road, mirrors, and gauges at the same time).
Many vehicles are equipped with hands-free cell phone gear, either as aftermarket add-ons or as built in components. Although many people, including some safety advocates, believe that these devices are safe, there is evidence that they are even more dangerous than hand-held devices. Not only do they involve two of the three components of distracted driving (visual and cognitive), they also give drivers a false sense of security. At least operators who use handheld devices know they are distracted.
There are basically two ways to establish distracted driving damages claims in civil court.
If the tortfeasor (negligent driver) was texting while driving, even if officers did not issue a citation, the negligence per se rule probably applies. Under this doctrine, tortfeasors are liable for damages as a matter of law if they:
- Violate a safety law, and
- The violation substantially caused the car wreck.
Since the jury decides all factual issues in a civil case, the jury may also decide whether or not the tortfeasor broke the texting law. Such a violation is normally easy to establish, because cell phones and cell phone records are subject to discovery. As soon as possible after the crash, and attorney will send a spoliation letter to the tortfeasor, forbidding him/her from deleting text messages or altering any other possible evidence in the case.
If something else distracted the tortfeasor, such as surfing the web, using an app, or eating a sandwich, the tortfeasor may still be liable under traditional negligence theory. The victim/plaintiff must establish that the degree of distraction was so significant that the tortfeasor breached the duty of reasonable care.
In either case, if the victim sustained a serious injury, damages include compensation for both tangible losses, such as medical bills, and intangible losses, such as emotional distress.
Reach Out to Tenacious Attorneys
Distracted drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Port St. Lucie, contact Eighmie Law Firm, P.A. We have three offices in the area.