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The Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Your trusted legal advisors since 1976

The Three Types of Distracted Driving in Florida


Most drivers agree that distracted driving is one of the most dangerous driving behaviors. Yet most drivers also admit that they often do not focus on driving. Most people multitask their way through the day. We type on the computer while we talk on the phone and carry on conversations with our spouses as we watch TV. But this kind of multitasking is very dangerous when behind the wheel of a moving car.

Because of this danger, a Tampa personal injury attorney may be able to obtain substantial compensation in distracted driving cases. This compensation normally includes money for economic losses, such as medical bills, as well as noneconomic losses, such as pain and suffering. Additional punitive damages may be available as well, in some cases depending on the facts.

Proving Damages in Distracted Driving Claims

In Florida, most distracted driving claims involve ordinary negligence, which is a lack of reasonable care. For now, only a handful of these claims involve negligence per se, which is a violation of a safety law. That could change on January 1, 2020.

That’s the day Florida’s new hands-free law takes effect. Motorists may receive tickets for using their phones in any way while they are driving, even if they are stopped in traffic. The ban applies to not only talking and texting, but also web-surfing, picture taking, and any other activity.

However, in civil court, violating the hands-free law is only a presumption of negligence. Victim/plaintiffs must introduce additional evidence to establish liability for damages. Such evidence could be prolonged use of a phone while driving.

To obtain damages in non-device distraction cases, victim/plaintiffs must establish a lack of care. In other words, if a driver looks away for a moment, that may not be enough to prove distracted driving.

Manual Distraction

Most all distracted drivers take at least one hand off the wheel. It is very difficult to steer a car safely with one hand, and it is almost impossible to perform emergency maneuvers.

Drivers who use hands-free cell phones are not manually distracted. They may take a hand off the wheel for a moment to decline a call or take some other action. But as mentioned, this behavior usually does not constitute a lack of care. It is also not illegal, even under the new hands-free law.

Cognitive Distraction

However, hands-free cell phones are cognitively distracting, because operators take their minds off driving. As mentioned, operating heavy machinery requires concentration. Divided attention often causes crashes.

Other forms of cognitive distraction include talking to passengers while driving, even if the operator is still looking forward.

Visual Distraction

These same behaviors, including using a hands-free device, are also visually distracting, because operators take their eyes off the road.

On a related note, many experts believe that hands-free devices can be more distracting than hand-held devices. It is important to remember that hands-free phones are visually and cognitively distracting. Additionally, these devices give drivers a false sense of security, So, they take more chances than they would otherwise.

Lack of care is important in these cases. Glancing at the speedometer and other gauges are technically visual distraction. Yet even if a driver was looking at the fuel gauge at the moment of impact, most Hillsborough County jurors would not consider that distracted driving.

Connect with Local, Experienced Lawyers

Distracted drivers often cause serious vehicle collisions. For a free consultation with an established personal injury attorney in Tampa, contact Matassini Law Firm, P.A. Home and hospital visits are available.

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