Distracted Driving Causes and Solutions in Tampa
Nationwide, distracted drivers cause about a fifth of fatal car crashes. The proportion may be even higher in Florida. As outlined below, the Sunshine State has one of the country’s weakest cell phone laws. The anemic law is not much of a deterrent to cell phone-addicted drivers, particularly in the smartphone era.
Since most distracted drivers do not bother slowing down while using their phones, damages in these high-speed crashes are often substantial. Compensation typically includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, and noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some extreme cases.
The Three Types of Distracted Driving in Tampa
Hand-held cellphones are only part of the problem. Distracted driving covers a number of other activities as well.
Electronic devices are visually distracting. While using these devices, people look at their gadgets instead of the road. Even if they only look down for a moment, a car travelling at full speed covers a lot of ground in a half second. Furthermore, traffic conditions change just as quickly, especially since not all operators are defensive drivers.
Hands-free cellphones are not any safer than hand-held devices. Both are visually distracting. Furthermore, using a hands-free device gives some people a false sense of security, so they take more chances.
Cognitive distraction is an issue as well, and cell phones are not the only things that take a driver’s minds off the road. Other sources of cognitive distraction include:
- Hands-free cellphones,
- Talking to passengers while driving, and
- Daydreaming while driving.
Mental distraction reduces reaction time. Cognitively distracted drivers cannot simply react to an emergency. Their minds must first jolt back to the road. That additional nanosecond often makes a big difference.
The last type of distracted driving, manual distraction, is also the most common type of distracted driving. Operators take at least one hand off the wheel when they:
- Use a hand-held device,
- Open the sunroof, and
- Adjust the radio or air conditioner.
Some of these behaviors constitute a lack of ordinary care and others do not.
Legal Options in Distracted Driving Claims
Negligence cases always involve a lack of ordinary care. Sometimes, a statute establishes the standard of care in a given situation. Tortfeasors (negligent drivers) may be liable for damages as a matter of law if they:
- Violate a safety law, and
- That violation substantially causes damages.
But Florida has a very limited cell phone law. It only applies to talking and texting. It does not apply to the many other things that people use their phones for. It also does not apply to any non-device related distractions.
Additionally, since the distracted driving law is a traffic infraction instead of a criminal law, it does not have the same force and effect in civil court. Violating the cell phone law is only a presumption of negligence. Victim/plaintiffs must introduce additional evidence to receive compensation.
So, many Florida distracted driving claims rely on a traditional negligence theory. That’s a violation of the duty of reasonable care. Most Hillsborough County jurors would say that constant cell phone use or distraction before the accident is a breach of care. But things like turning down the air conditioner do not violate this duty, even though they are technically distracted driving.
Despite the additional elements, negligence cases are still fairly easy to prove in court. The burden of proof is only a preponderance of the evidence (more likely than not).
Contact Assertive Lawyers
Distracted drivers often cause serious injuries. For a free consultation with an experienced Tampa distracted driving attorney, contact The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.
Since 1976, The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. has been helping victims of injury and medical malpractice seek justice throughout Florida. Nicholas M. Matassini and Nicholas G. Matassini are both AV Rated by Martindale-Hubbell.