A Florida man was lucky enough to escape injuries after his car plummeted over 50 feet off an elevated highway. The highway patrol says that Thomas Highhouse, age 61, became distracted by his radio and lost control. He drove off the interstate, became airborne, and fell onto the ground below. Alcohol was not a factor in the accident, and Highhouse was wearing a seatbelt. He has been cited for careless driving.
Although the man in this incident was the only person involved in the accident, many distracted driving accidents involve not only the driver who was distracted, but another car and its occupants, as well. Distracted driving is a factor in at least 25 to 50% of all accidents, according to statistics. In 2017, more than 50,000 car accidents resulted from driver’s who were distracted in Florida alone. The Florida Highway Patrol says people who are 20-29 years of age cause the greatest number of crashes in this category, usually due to the use of technology.
What is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving can result when anything causes you to take your hands off the wheel, your mind off driving, or your eyes off the road. It is extremely risky driving that puts everyone on the road in danger. There are different types of driving distractions, but they fall into either visual (taking your eyes of the road), manual (taking your hands off the wheel), or cognitive (thinking about other things besides driving). Texting requires all three types of distractions, making it one of the most dangerous activities on the road. Other examples may include the following:
- Looking at other roadside accidents or incidents.
- Reading billboards or looking at scenery.
- Child or other passenger distractions.
- Adjusting the stereo or climate controls or using a GPS.
- Talking, texting, or using the internet on a cell phone or other mobile device.
- Eating and drinking.
- Reading documents, maps, newspapers, books, or other material.
- Emotional upset and daydreaming.
- Unrestrained pets.
- Putting on makeup or other grooming.
To avoid a crash, a driver must always be alert in order to see a potential hazard, react, and give the vehicle time to stop. Even a focused driver traveling at 50 mph may travel nearly the length of a football field before being able to reach a complete stop. Drivers who cause injuries and accidents due to their distracted driving are liable for the harm they cause to others.
Florida Law and Distracted Driving
Under current Florida law, police may not pull over a driver specifically for using a cell phone because it is not considered a primary offense. This means that for a police officer to give you a ticket for distracted driving, he or she must have another driving offense to cite the driver for first.
Florida is among only a handful of states that do not allow police to pull over and cite motorists for distracted driving. South Dakota, Ohio, Nebraska, and Iowa are the other states that do not consider distracted driving a primary offense.
Do Not be a Distracted Driver
Whether or not Florida state law has restrictions on cell phone or other mobile device use while driving should not be the deciding factor on whether to use them. All drivers should take precautions when using a mobile device, including the following suggestions:
- Do not make calls when your vehicle is moving.
- Do not make calls in inclement weather or in heavy traffic.
- Program frequently called numbers into your phone, so you are less likely to have to spend time dialing a number.
- Never write message, take notes, or look up phone numbers or other information while driving. Pull over to do these tasks.
- When pulling over, avoid dangerous areas and keep your car doors locked.
- If a call is necessary, ask a passenger to make the call for you if possible.
- Keep conversations short and do not discuss any topics that may be emotional.
If You Have Been in a Distracted Driving Accident
While there are many obvious things you should do if an accident occurs like calling the police, calling for emergency medical treatment, if necessary, and exchanging contact and insurance information, there are also a few other things to do that might help your case if you have been injured.
First, take pictures of not only the damage to the vehicles involved in the accident, but also any debris in the road and skid marks. While you may want to apologize for the accident even if it is not your fault (and even if you do think it was your fault), you should never admit any fault or try to explain the incident to the other driver. Anything you say, including an admission of fault, could be held against you by the insurance company or in a court of law.
Even if you feel like you have not been injured, it is a good idea to get an evaluation by a physician. While some injuries are obvious after an accident, others do not produce any symptoms for days, or even weeks, after the accident occurs. Be sure to tell the doctor about the accident and have him or her document the accident in your chart.
Compensation for Your Injuries
Florida is a no-fault state when it comes to traffic accidents. This means that you must first look to your own insurance company for reimbursement for your injuries and losses. The only way to step outside the no-fault system is if there is a serious injury threshold that has been met. This usually means that the injury must have resulted in permanent damage or disability, significant or permanent disfigurement or scarring, or death.
Florida is also considered a comparative negligence state. This means that the jury or judge will assign each party a percentage of fault in the accident. If they find that you were at all at fault they may reduce your compensation by the percentage that you were assigned.
Why You Need a Personal Injury Attorney
Because of the complex nature of Florida’s car accident laws, you may need help from an attorney who is experienced and knowledgeable about the accident laws in the state. The attorneys at Brill & Rinaldi have over 40 years of experience to help you determine if your case meets the requirements of the law and how much compensation you could receive. Contact them today for a free consultation.