Consequences of Using Your Cell Phone While Driving in Florida
Bill Allen | September 27, 2023 | Car Accidents
Cell phone use impairs your ability to drive. In fact, according to one study, drivers using their cell phones are just as impaired as those at the legal alcohol limit, and that impairment persists whether the driver uses a handheld device or a hands-free headset. Drivers even experience similar impairment when talking on the phone without texting or reading.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) understands the problem. It has worked with the state legislature to pass a Florida cell phone law against texting while driving. The department has also begun conducting an educational campaign to deter drivers from using their devices while driving: “Put it Down: Focus on Driving.”
How Do Cell Phones Affect Drivers?
Driving requires equal amounts of physical and mental focus. Distractions, therefore, include anything that occupies your mind, eyes, or hands while on the road.
Some common distractions are as follows:
- Eating or drinking
- Searching for lost items
- Talking to passengers
- Adjusting your stereo or navigation system
Distracted driving prevents you from spotting and reacting to road hazards, traffic congestion, or pedestrians. Even at a modest speed of 35 miles per hour, your vehicle still travels over 100 feet during just a two-second glance away from what’s ahead.
However, the distractions that concern FLHSMV the most stem from cell phone use. According to one survey, 97% of Americans own a cell phone, and even among the oldest demographic — those over 65 years old — 92% have cell phones.
More importantly, 85% of Americans have smartphones, which require your eyes, fingers, and attention for most of their functions. Most drivers cannot resist the temptation to use them, with over 89% admitting to using their cell phones while driving.
What Consequences Come With Cell Phone Use While Driving?
You can face grave consequences if you use your cell phone while driving, including:
Getting a Traffic Ticket
Is it illegal to talk on the phone while driving? The answer, in some situations, is yes, as Florida laws have banned certain forms of cell phone use while driving. Specifically, Florida cell phone laws prohibit texting while driving alongside all cell use while driving through school crossings, school zones, and work zones. A police officer can stop and cite you for violating either of these restrictions.
The penalties for using a phone while driving include a $30 fine for a first offense and a $60 fine plus three points on your driving record for a second or subsequent offense. The penalties for using a phone while driving in a protected zone include a $60 fine and three points for all offenses.
These penalties jump to six points on your driving record if your actions violate Florida cell phone laws and cause a crash. But more importantly, a collision will likely expose you to a reckless driving charge.
Reckless driving happens when someone willfully drives with wanton disregard for the safety of others. Willfulness, in this case, refers to an intent to endanger other drivers, while “wanton disregard” means the driver ignored an obvious risk.
Using a cell phone while driving can constitute reckless driving when it establishes a high risk of injury or death. Thus, driving 90 miles per hour in the rain might be considered a form of reckless driving, the punishment for which could include up to five years in prison if the reckless driver caused an injurious car accident.
Causing an Accident
Your risk of causing a crash increases when you drive distracted. According to FLHSMV’s Distracted Driving Dashboard, cell phone use may have played a role in up to 54,680 Florida crashes in 2022. Of these, 834 accidents occurred in Alachua County, which is home to Gainesville.
Across the state, 272 people died, and 46,922 people suffered an injury in a distracted driving crash in 2022.
These injuries can be divided into the following categories:
- 2,648 incapacitating injuries, such as major fractures, paralysis, or head injuries
- 13,556 visible, non-incapacitating injuries, such as minor cuts, fractures, and bruises
- 30,676 complaints of pain, confusion, or other symptoms without any visible wounds
Crashes caused by cell use can take many forms. A distracted driver might not notice a slowing or stopped vehicle ahead of them and thus slam into the rear of the vehicle, producing a rear-end collision. These crashes can cause serious injuries, including whiplash and concussions.
Drivers distracted by their cell phones are more likely to run red lights or stop signs as well. They may also fail to spot pedestrians, bicycles, and other vehicles proceeding through intersections. As a result, they may proceed even though another road user has the right of way.
The resulting intersection crash can produce catastrophic injuries, particularly if a vehicle hits the driver’s side door. These side-impact crashes can cause crushing injuries to the upper limbs, chest, and abdomen.
Cell phone use can also interfere with a driver’s attentiveness while maneuvering. When drivers fail to check their blind spots before turning or changing lanes, they can sideswipe another vehicle or hit a pedestrian or bicycle. Sideswipe collisions usually produce relatively minor injuries to motorists, but they can still easily incapacitate or kill a pedestrian or cyclist.
Paying For Someone Else’s Injuries
Florida uses a no-fault insurance system, which means those who suffer injuries will seek compensation from their PIP auto insurer. However, when victims suffer significant, permanent injuries, or if their losses exceed their no-fault policy limits, they can pursue a claim against the distracted driver.
Can I Get Compensated If a Florida Driver Using a Phone Hits Me?
You may be able to pursue a claim if you are injured due to someone else’s negligent driving. Negligence takes place when someone fails to exercise reasonable care when driving, and in many situations, it means that the other driver broke the law. Nevertheless, negligence happens whenever a driver does something unreasonably dangerous, even if it is legal under Florida cell phone laws.
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