By: KGD Law
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Automated Features in Vehicles Increase Florida Distracted Driving
Until April 1st, Floridians experienced more freedom than much of the rest of the country who went into lockdown early to prevent the spread of COVID-19. While many Americans parked their cars and started at-home hobbies, Floridians were still going to work and socializing at the beach. As a result, car crashes increased in Florida while they decreased in most other places. Why? Distracted driving. Just because we weren’t on lockdown doesn’t mean we weren’t worried. A preoccupation with what would happen and how dangerous the virus would be took away from attention that should be spent on the road and driving conditions. However, Florida has always had a high rate of automobile crashes. This is likely to do with its population and high number of visitors. While the coronavirus pandemic is a worthy contributor to distracted driving, a much larger contributor may be automated features in vehicles.
Automated Features, Not Self-Driving
Yes, the automated features in vehicles meant to increase safety are having the opposite effect. Adaptive cruise control and lane assistance have made many standard vehicles ALMOST automatic. This means people still need to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like they need to. The car will stay on the road in most cases. It will slow down and speed up with traffic. Emergency braking may even avoid a collision. As a result, people are turning to their phones and other non-driving activities while seated behind the wheel. The cars drive themselves until something unexpected happens.
The Unexpected Happens
The freeway is where most people allow themselves to get complacent while driving. The Department of Transportation marks the lines well, and traffic flows. As a result, most automated features in vehicles work without much human input. Anyone who has driven for a decade or more knows that this is not always true. Someone could cross over the median or a wreck could occur ahead of you. Road debris or a potential accident is impossible to avoid if your hands are gripping a novel. If you are an attentive driver, this probably sounds absurd, but drivers with near-autopilot features get very lax with their attention. They become distracted drivers.
It Takes Time to Become Distracted
AAA did a study of drivers with automated features on their vehicles, and they determined that it takes time to become distracted. When just beginning to use the vehicles features like lane-assist, new users were less likely to trust them. Over time, this trust grew, and drivers were more likely to rely on these features. Relying completely on things that are only made to assist is dangerous. The fact this form of distracted driving occurs more often on the freeway makes the unexpected a potential deadly motor vehicle accident.
The Law Surrounding Distracted Driving in Florida
In Florida, it is not legal to use a cellular phone while driving for texting. Texting and driving is one of the most dangerous distractions while driving because it requires the use of your eyes, hands, and mind. The law does not only prohibit texting. People may also not use wireless devices in a handheld manner in a school zone or work zone. Many have criticized distracted driving laws in Florida because it does not make it illegal to do other things that are distracting. This includes talking on the phone, putting on makeup while driving, or arguing with a passenger while driving. Apparently, it doesn’t really stop people from texting and driving either.
According to data, distracted driving accidents have risen by 28 percent over the last 5-6 years in Florida, and over 1,100 people have died as a result. It seems like distracted driving laws have not done much to curb the actions or effects of distracted driving. This is probably because it is so easy to engage in cell phone use without being detected.
Hopefully, information about distracted driving and how many people are doing it concerns you. This is why you should not be a distracted driver. In fact, defensive driving is the best way to keep yourself protected from distracted drivers. If a vehicle is barreling down the road coming at you, and you are on your phone, a head-on collision may occur. In a better scenario, you are able to veer to the side, and the distracted driver is in a single-vehicle crash. It is possible that he or she also suffers less injuries because of the potential for lessened impact.
Personal Injury and Distracted Driving
In Florida, drivers are legally expected to have a duty of care while driving a vehicle. This means they are supposed to be as safe as they can and try to prevent injuries to others. Basically, people must drive sober and follow the speed limit. They must not engage in distracting behavior. It also means trying to avoid a collision, if possible, regardless of who is at-fault. If people aren’t exercising their duty of care, they are usually negligent and liable for injuries.
Compensation for Injuries from Distracted Driving
When a person is negligent and liable for another person’s injuries in a motor vehicle accident, an injured party can sue them. The courts can hold them liable for medical bills, loss of income, pain and suffering, emotional distress, and multitude of other damages that exist in civil law. Especially in the case of distracted driving, there may be punitive awards as well if the driver was especially negligent or a repeat offender. The criminal court system may not have as many tools to punish distracted drivers, but the civil court system certainly does.
Proving Distracted Driving
There are multiple ways to prove distracted driving. In some cases, the driver may admit it. Often, the driver will deny it in order to try to evade liability. That is why officer testimony or witness reports can be invaluable to a personal injury suit. We live in a very electronic world, and many streets, vehicles, and people are recording the actions of others. If you are able, immediately after an accident occurs, try to get contact information from anyone who could be helpful to your court case.
You don’t have to prove that the driver was distracted beyond a reasonable doubt, just that it is more likely than not that he or she was distracted. This can be achieved easily with an eye witness, especially if they are objective witnesses instead of friends or relatives. Additionally, information from the accident, such as a driver not being able to remain in his or her lane of traffic, can be submitted as proof.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
You’ll want to find a good personal injury lawyer to handle your lawsuit, and in order to do this, you’re going to have to talk to one…or a few. The first consultation should be free of charge and give you a good feel for whether or not you want to work with a certain firm. They should be interested in your case and make you feel comfortable with filing a lawsuit. If you don’t feel comfortable, move on to a different one. There’s nothing worse than wishing you had a different attorney in the middle of lawsuit.
At Kirshner, Groff, and Diaz, you’ll get to talk to an actual lawyer the first time you call, and you’ll get a free, no obligation consultation. We have decades of experience in Florida personal injury law, and we are only interested in getting you the compensation you deserve.