If you are picking up your cell phone while driving your car, make sure it’s for a good reason. As the mobile device continues to gain presence in our daily lives, states have started to crack down on cell phone usage. Distracted driving is a dangerous prospect for everyone on the road, not just for the distracted driver. Accidents resulting in serious injury can carry hefty fines and serious civil liability, and even more so when the accident is a result of a driver acting negligently or in violation of state laws. As such, aside from practicing safe driving habits, it is always a good idea to keep abreast of legal developments regarding device usage.
Texting while Driving
Since October 1, 2013, it has been illegal to text while operating a motor vehicle in the state of Florida. With the hopes of reducing traffic accidents statewide, the law bans the practice of manually typing letters, numbers, symbols, or characters while driving. Effectively, this eliminates surfing the internet, emailing, and even dialing a phone number. This secondary offense currently requires an enforcement officer to have pulled you over for something else in order to issue you a citation, however there is a large group of advocates looking to intensify the restrictions to allow officers to issue citations without a primary offense under way.
If you have to use your phone, Florida law currently permits the use of voice commands to operate features such as calling. Driving and talking on your cell phone is still perfectly legal, however, it is important to note that the law does limit the input techniques used to operate your device. Voice commands will keep you within the bounds of the current law, but prudence dictates using hands-free operation to ensure your hands are free to operate the vehicle and your line of sight is un-obscured by holding the phone to your ear.
Music, weather, and live maps have been quickly integrated into millions of automobiles through the advancements in cell phone technology. The youngest of drivers have become so reliant on the use of tracking and map features that it is likely that many of them may not even know how to use a traditional map. As such, completely removing the use of mobile devices from automobiles is a public policy pipedream. No one wants to limit the effectiveness of transportation by eliminating these useful tools, and the current law is written with these exceptions in mind. While you are banned from manually inputting information into navigation, weather, or music applications, voice input and use of the applications outright is not affected by the current legislation. As always, however, please do so carefully.
“At your own risk” is a term that we have all heard. Unfortunately, manipulating your mobile device to the point of distraction is not just putting you at risk, but also the drivers and pedestrians in your vicinity. We all have a duty, as drivers, to operate our vehicles safely and in a reasonable manner. This includes following the speed limit, obeying traffic signs, and maintaining the appropriate level of attention. Allowing yourself to become distracted can result in a breach of that duty of care we owe to the others around us, and can result in civil liability under negligence theories. While being proven criminally negligent, or otherwise guilty of a crime, requires the act being proven beyond reasonable doubt, being subject to civil liability merely requires a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, you might escape jail time for distracted driving, but you will probably not escape a civil suit.
Get the Right Team
When dealing with car accidents resulting from distracted driving, it is important to retain counsel experienced with the issues. The attorneys at Fasig, & Brooks have years of experience in handling car accident claims involving distracted drivers, and can help you. Contact us today for a consultation, just wait until you get out of the car.