In 20 years, cellphones have gone from oddity to necessity, from a device to make a phone call to a portable personal computer containing a wide variety of communications options.
Since Americans spend an average of one hour per day in the car, it’s no wonder that more and more accidents continue to be caused by distracted driving. It’s also why the Florida Department of Transportation initiated a program to get distracted drivers off the road.
This is an important move because Florida is a “no fault” auto insurance state, meaning that you may receive less compensation in case of an accident if you were at fault.
Research shows the problem
Research by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that the number of reports by police about distracted driving has remained stable between 2015 and 2017.
Each year, operatives for the NHTSA’s National Occupant Protection Use Survey go to 1,600 sites in mid-June and observe about 50,000 vehicles. They viewed:
- 2.9 percent of vehicles were using a handheld cellphone – down from a high of 6.2 percent in 2007 and down from 3.3 percent in 2016
- 0.4 percent were using a visible headset – down from a high of 0.9 percent in 2010 and down from 0.5 percent in 2016
- 2 percent could be seen visibly manipulating a handheld device – down from a high of 2.2 percent in both 2014 and 2015 and down from 2.1 percent in 2016
The survey also found that more women than men were seen driving while using a handheld cellphone, and more drivers between ages 16 and 24 were seen manipulating handheld devices than other ages.
Get off the road to use your phone
Recognizing the problem of distracted driving, the Florida Department of Transportation unveiled a strategy in 2015 that designated 64 rest areas, welcome centers and turnpike service plazas as Safe Phone Zones. The areas feature signage that encourages drivers to use cellphones in a safe location.
While you should use Safe Phone Zones to keep yourself and other safe, it’s’ also important to consider Florida’s “no fault” rule of compensation after an accident.
If you are in an accident, you will file a claim with your own insurance company. If you or your insurance company file a claim against the other driver (or if a claim is filed against you), a judge or jury will calculate the percentage of fault for each driver and reduce the damage awards by that percentage.
This means that if you were in an accident because you were looking at your cellphone, you could be on the hook for much of the damages.
If you are in an accident and you think the other driver was distracted, contact a qualified and experienced attorney to help guide you through the insurance and legal process.