It is no secret that people are bombarded with information all day long, and this deluge of data often affects work productivity, personal relationships and even walking from point A to point B. While this perpetual state of distraction is not necessarily the best way to go through life, it can become deadly when paired with sitting behind the wheel of a car. When a person chooses to drive, he/she assumes the responsibility and obligation to do so as safely as possible to reduce the likelihood of an auto accident. The new distractions presented by texting, social media and cell phone use is in addition to disruptions in concentration and attention that have long tempted drivers to take their eyes off the road – grooming, changing the radio station, eating and looking at maps. A recent article in the Claims Journal looks at the prevalence of distracted driving, and notes that number of crashes related to this behavior is up across the country. Looking at Florida in particular, the article reported that distracted driving accounted for 45,700 crashes, including 200 with fatalities, which amounted to 12.2 percent of all crashes in 2015. States are passing laws prohibiting the use of technology while driving in an effort to combat this dangerous trend. Florida is included in this group, and a review of the law restricting the operation of certain devices while driving will be reviewed below. Knowing this information can be important in the event of an auto accident because if the other driver was engaged in these actions, it goes to proving he/she is liable.
Florida law expressly prohibits the wearing of headsets, headphones or other listening devices while driving. Exceptions are made for hearing aids, law enforcement personnel and cell phone use that involve sound emitting through only one ear, with sounds in and around the car still perceptible by the driver.
Florida recognized the need for regulation of cell phone use while driving several years ago and passed a law, Florida’s Ban on Texting While Driving Law, that prohibits a driver from engaging in all nonverbal communication using a wireless device, including typing on a keyboard and reading from the device to send an email, text or instant message. A “wireless communication device” is any item that is handheld and can transmit and receive information via text or the internet. A number of exceptions do apply to this prohibition:
- reporting an emergency or criminal activity to the police;
- messages that relate to vehicle operation, safety information, emergency alerts or radio broadcasts;
- using a device for navigation purposes;
- a device that does not require manual entry of letters and numbers to transmit data; and
- a device that does not require the user to visually read messages as they are received.
In addition, crashes that involve injury or death permit law enforcement to request a copy of a driver’s cell phone billing record in order to determine if the driver was unlawfully texting at the time of the collision. Finally, it is worth noting that, absent an accident, police cannot pull someone over solely for texting while driving because it is a secondary offense.
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If you suffered an injury in a car accident, it is important to hold the other driver accountable to help you emotionally heal from the ordeal and to recover costs related to medical expenses and lost wages. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado has the necessary experience to fully evaluate and litigate your case. Contact us for a free consultation.