Once again, it seems that Florida has found itself on the top of a national rankings study in which it probably does not want to be featured. Despite the repeated warnings from law enforcement and safety officials about the dangers of distracted driving, a recent study found that Florida drivers are some of the worst in the nation.
New Study on Distracted Driving
Florida recently ranked second-worst, only behind Louisiana, in a study of distracted drivers. Drivers were scored using a motion sensing app that detected sudden stops, hard braking, changes in speed, and other erratic driving indicators. The study showed that in the past 30 days, a stunning 92% of drivers nationally used a cell phone while operating a car.
Despite Florida’s high ranking, it remains one of only five states (the others are Iowa, Ohio, Nebraska, and South Dakota) in which distracted driving is not a primary offense—that is, a driver cannot be pulled over by law enforcement just for using a cell phone.
Numbers on Distracted Driving are Grim
The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles estimates that in 2016, there were 50,000 accidents that were related to or caused by distracted driving. Of those, 3,500 involved serious injury and 233 involved deaths.
Because many people do not admit to texting or browsing the internet moments before an accident, it is believed that those numbers are actually lower than reality. Additionally, the study only related to cell phone usage. It did not study other “distracted driving” dangers, such as in-car infotainment systems, or GPS devices, many of which are a part of the vehicle itself, but which can distract a driver as easily as a cell phone.
Amazingly, as high as the 92% figure sounds, it is actually an improvement. A similar study last year put the figure at 96%. That equated to being on a phone for half a mile for every eleven miles driven.
Florida Was Not the Worst in All Categories
Everquote, the company that conducted the study, still found that speeding was the greatest threat to driver safety, but phone usage was a close second. Thankfully, Florida did not rank in the top five for speeding incidents.
The midwestern states ranked highest in safety, with lower incidents of speeding and cell phone usage while driving. Montana, Wyoming, Alaska, and the Dakotas were the safest states to drive, with the lowest occurrences of incidents overall. For just cell phone use, Vermont, Montana, and Oregon were the safest states (those with the lowest rates of usage while driving).
Nationally, drivers under the age of 21 were more likely to use a phone while driving than those over the age of 21.
Lawsuits Against Manufacturers
April is distracted driving month, which prompted the survey to be conducted. The problem is getting so bad that it has even prompted some lawsuits against cell phone manufacturers, alleging that software should be included in phones that disengages them, or certain features, when the phone detects that it is inside a moving vehicle.
Although there are options to shut off certain features, victims say that there should be a way to absolutely restrict text messaging and phone usage in a car. This would allow parents of younger drivers to avoid distracted driving by teenage or underage drivers (although the problem obviously is not limited to younger drivers).
At least one of those lawsuits has been temporarily dismissed. The makers of the phones contend that when drivers choose not to use available technology to shut off text messaging, the drivers themselves should be responsible for distracted driving incidents. The companies contend that a driver using a cell phone is no different than a driver putting on makeup or eating lunch in the car while driving, to the extent the driver is voluntarily opting to engage in the dangerous activity.
In fact, Apple has patented technology to allow its iPhones to automatically lock when it senses a vehicle is moving, but that capability has not been included in its phones. One reason may be that companies have concern over forcing people’s phones to lock when a car is driving, citing consumer resistance to forced safety measures imposed on them.
Voice Commands Do Not Help
Most devices do contain capabilities to voice dictate emails or text messages. These have been sold as safety measures, but in fact, most experts believe that this technology does not solve the distracted driving problem. The reason is that distracted driving has nothing to do with a driver’s fingers or even eyes, but rather, the driver’s attention. Focusing on what is being dictated, or reviewing whether the dictation is correct, all take a driver’s concentration away from the road.
If the motivation of staying alive is not enough, the risk of being sued for distracted driving should do the trick. Drivers should remember that their cell phone records are subject to subpoena, in the event that there is an accident. That means that every time someone is on their phone, if they cause an accident, they will not be able to hide the fact they were involved in a distracted driving incident.
Many cars also have “black boxes,” which may track the use of in-car devices, such as infotainment screens, or Bluetooth connectivity to phones. That information can also be obtained and used in any lawsuit for negligent driving.
Make sure that you are safe when operating a car. If you are involved in a car accident, contact Brill & Rinaldi today about a free consultation to discuss your case.