Articles Posted in Distracted Driving

Florida’s new distracted driving law, or texting while driving, goes into effect July 1, and law enforcement agencies across the state are preparing for how they will enforce it.

As far as enforcing the rule, a Hillsborough County Sheriff’s spokesperson said it will be done on a case-by-case basis.

The Sheriff’s Office said texting violations will be treated like any other primary offense traffic violation.

Deputies expect challenges from drivers trying to find loopholes around getting a citation, because they exist.

According to officials, drivers can still use their GPS, look at weather or traffic alerts, or call in an emergency.

Traffic judges might see more work as a result.

Pinellas County Sheriff’s officials said their enforcement will go through an education period. They’ll give out a warning the first time.

But drivers better make changes, because getting pulled over multiple times for texting while driving will end up in a ticket.

A hands-free requirement while driving in school and work zones goes into effect in October.

Citations will not be handed out for this violation until January 1, 2020.

This new law that makes texting while driving a primary offense as opposed to a secondary offense is meant to curb dangerous and deadly behavior while behind the wheel. Distracted driving accounts for more teen deaths than drunk driving, and kills 9 people of all ages every day across the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Car crashes in Florida rose by 11 percent from 2013 to 2016, but collisions caused by problems stemming from distracted driving, like drifting out of a lane, sideswiping another car or simply blowing through a stop sign, increased by 40-50 percent.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a distracted driving accident, our Florida Injury Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can investigate your crash thoroughly and determine if the other driver involved in your accident was using their cellphone or otherwise driving while distracted. We will use this evidence to establish that the other driver was indeed at fault, which may result in a more favorable outcome when pursuing financial compensation.

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Holding your phone, putting on makeup or petting your dog while driving could all be illegal in Florida if state legislators pass a new bill that outlaws distracted driving.

Rep. Jackie Toledo and Sen. Wilton Simpson, who are sponsoring the legislation, contend Florida needs stricter laws for safer roads. They feel the best way to keep drivers and pedestrians safe is to eliminate distractions behind the wheel and put the focus back on driving.

“The focus of this bill is to save lives and get people’s behavior to change,” said Toledo, R-Tampa. “While you’re driving, you should be focused on driving.”

But opponents say the proposed law is too broad and raises concerns about racial profiling and unequal enforcement.

Currently, Florida drivers can hold a phone in their hands. But using one to text, write emails or send other messages is a secondary offense, meaning police officers must have another reason to pull someone over before they can issue a citation. They also need evidence that the driver was using the phone to send a message.

Toledo and Simpson, R-Trilby, filed bills that originally sought to make holding a cellphone while driving a primary offense. This would mean law enforcement would not need to prove an individual was writing a message.

But the legislation took a new direction in a Senate committee hearing last week. Senators on the Infrastructure and Security Committee decided to broaden the bills and target any action that distracts a driver.

The amended legislation lists several tasks that would be illegal while behind the wheel: reading, writing, performing personal grooming, applying a beauty aid or similar products, interacting with pets or unsecured cargo, and using a “personal wireless communications device” such as a cell phone.

The bill also includes a clause that could apply to any number of actions not listed: “engaging in any other activity, conduct, task, or action that causes distraction.”

That provision could be a problem, according to Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg.

“This gives law enforcement license to pull anyone over at any time for anything,” he said. “It’s completely subjective,” and would lead to uncertainty about what is and isn’t legal.

Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, signed on as a co-sponsor of the Senate bill when it dealt with cell phone use while driving. But he said the broader nature of the amendment makes him think twice about supporting it going forward.

“I understand the intent and purpose,” Rouson said. “But what creeps into this is what constitutes a distraction and can it open drivers up to profiling or discriminatory treatment based on culture or personal choice.”

Currently, Florida is one of three states that doesn’t allow law enforcement officers to pull drivers over just because they are on their cellphones. It is currently a secondary offense, meaning officers can cite drivers for texting only after stopping them for other reasons, such as speeding. The current offense brings a $30 fine, plus local add-on fees.

The bills, if passed, would give Florida some of the toughest laws against distracted driving in the nation.

Florida is one of the worst states in the country for distracted driving. According to the state department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were almost 50,000 crashes involving distracted drivers in Florida in 2016. This breaks down to more than five crashes every hour. These distracted driving crashes accounted for more than 3,500 serious injuries and 233 deaths.

Distracted drivers can cause severe accidents resulting in catastrophic injuries and even wrongful death. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, our Florida Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help.

We can investigate the cause of your crash and determine if the other driver involved was using their cellphone or engaging in other acts of distracted driving, like eating, applying makeup, or even tending to a pet. We can use this evidence to establish liability, with the hopes of obtaining financial compensation for your losses.

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A deadly Sunday crash that killed a cyclist and injured six others in South Florida is sadly the latest reminder about the dangers of distracted driving.

Investigators are still working to piece together what happened, and state lawmakers are continuing their push to strengthen Florida’s traffic laws in the hopes of making people safer on the road.

And it’s not just lawmakers calling for change. Families who have lost loved ones are joining in the effort, saying the laws don’t do enough to crack down on texting while driving.

Legislation has been trying to enhance existing laws since 2015, but concerns about racial profiling and potential privacy issues have put the brakes on any substantial change.

Under the latest proposal, drivers could still use cell phones for navigation. To talk on their phones, however, they would be required to use a hands-free device.

Last year, state Sen. Audrey Gibson of Jacksonville, now the Senate Minority Leader, suggested that moving to hands-free devices would erase concerns about racial profiling.

Keeping with current law, the legislation allows for cell phone records to be accessed in cases dealing with deal or physical injury. That could curb some of the privacy concerns voiced in years past.

Though this year’s version of the bill has not been assigned to any committees yet, lawmakers will return to Tallahassee in December for the first rounds of committee hearings.

On highways, interstates and roadways throughout Florida, drivers who allow distractions to interfere with their driving cause serious accidents that can lead to fatalities. If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you don’t need to go through this difficult time on your own. Our Florida Auto Accident Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help.

We will investigate your case and determine if the other driver involved in your accident was using their cellphone or otherwise driving while distracted. We can use this evidence to establish liability, so that you can seek financial compensation for your losses.

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Memorial Day is approaching and that means a long weekend and the start of summer! Whether it is at the pool, on a boat, or at a barbecue, plans are usually made to enjoy this time and relax with good friends and family.

We should not forget that this is a time to pay tribute to the brave men and women in the military who died in the line of service to the United States and defending our freedoms.

Spending the time with loved ones may mean a celebration at home or travelling to other places. Regardless of your plans, safety and common sense should be utilized to keep everyone free from harm. No one wants to have to spend their long weekend in the emergency room!

Our Florida Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have compiled a few safety tips to get you through the Memorial Day Weekend safely:

  • Grill Safely: Make sure your grill is cleaned of grease, dust, and checked before use. Do not grill in an enclosed space that could catch fire.
  • Swimming or Boating: Refrain from consuming alcohol when swimming or boating. Do not swim alone. Wear lifejackets on boats. AND ALWAYS supervise young children at all times to avoid drowning and near drowning tragedies.  
  • Travel Safely: In 2017 the National Safety Council estimated that holiday traffic injuries and deaths have climbed upward in the last two years. Because of this, we urge you to never drink and drive, wear your seatbelt every time you get inside a car, make sure children are in the proper safety seats for age and weight, refrain from distractions while behind the wheel, and make sure you are well rested before making a long trip.

If you or someone you love has been seriously injured or suffered a wrongful death, call us immediately at 866-608-5529 or contact us online. We offer free initial consultations and are available 24/7, so you can ask all of your questions and get the help you need.  

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The holiday season is a time for joyful celebrations and enjoying time with friends and family. It is also a high-risk time to be on the roadways. Christmas, New Year’s, and the days surrounding these holidays are days when there is a substantially higher number of auto accidents and crash fatalities than other times of the year. If you or someone you love is injured or killed in a holiday car accident, our Florida Auto Accident Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are here to help you through.

Christmas and New Year’s are all at the top of the list of high-risk days for drivers. These holidays see some of the year’s highest accident rates, along with Thanksgiving, Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Independence Day. The increase in fatalities and serious injury accidents on these holidays is substantial, with motorists facing a dramatically increased chance of being involved in a crash.

The Christmas holiday period includes Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and the day after Christmas. During this holiday time, an average of 343 people die in motor vehicle accidents. New Years is also defined as a three-day holiday period including New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. Over New Year’s, an average of 373 people die in car accidents. Why? More drivers on the roads and more drunk drivers are two primary reasons for the rise in car accident deaths on both Christmas and New Year’s.

Drivers need to be aware of the added dangers of driving on these holidays and should take precautions to try to protect themselves from becoming accident victims. There are a few things you can do to make sure you are set up well for travelling this holiday season.

  1. Make sure your car is in good condition before traveling.
  2. Get plenty of rest to avoid drowsy driving.
  3. Check road conditions to be prepared for adverse weather and avoid driving during storms.
  4. Try to limit travel time to daytime rather than driving at night when the accident risks are greater.
  5. Stay sober and avoid alcohol and drugs.
  6. Don’t succumb to distractions when driving!

If you or someone you love is the victim of a crash on any day or holiday, our Florida Auto Accident Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can provide assistance with pursuing a case for financial compensation for crash injuries or wrongful death.

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Halloween is tomorrow and our Florida Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want everyone to remember to make safety a part of your celebration at home, at a party, or while trick or treating. Please keep the following safety tips in mind for happy Halloween memories:

Trick or Treating Safety

  • Children under the age of 12 should be accompanied by a parent or responsible adult while trick or treating. With older children, curfews should be established. Encourage teens to stay with a group and make sure you know what route they plan to use.
  • You can reduce the risk of a pedestrian accident by using flashlights and glow sticks when trick or treating. These will allow motorists to see your trick or treater on the street. We also encourage you to dress your children in costumes with reflective material, lighter colors, and free from excessive material, which could prompt a slip and fall accident. Proper footwear is essential in preventing falls, too. Avoid wearing masks that are too large, which can obstruct your child’s vision.
  • Always have your cellphone on you in case of an emergency!
  • Stay in well-lit areas on familiar streets, and pass on going to dark homes. Make sure your kids know to never enter homes or cars to retrieve candy.
  • Always inspect candy for choking hazards and potential tampering before eating.

Safe Driving On Halloween

  • As a driver, be especially cautious in residential neighborhoods where trick or treaters may travel. Drive slowly and be vigilant in watching out for children in costume and other pedestrians.
  • If you are reversing from a home or street, please look for anyone behind you before doing so.
  • Distracted driving and speeding should be avoided during heavy trick or treating hours, and really any time when you are behind the wheel.
  • Turn on headlights, even during daylight hours just to be extra cautious.

If you or someone you love has been injured in a pedestrian accident, a slip and fall accident or any other type of accident due to another’s negligence, we can help. Call us for a free consultation at 866-608-5529 or contact us online. We can begin helping you with your potential case right away, so do not delay.

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Belle Isle interim city manager, Apopka consultant and lobbyist Richard Anderson turned himself in to authorities yesterday after he was charged with a hit-and-run case that hospitalized another driver back in April.

The Florida Highway Patrol investigated the Lake County collision and issued an arrest warrant for Anderson Tuesday.

Anderson turned himself in to the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office out of convenience Tuesday afternoon. That department held him in the Seminole County jail overnight pending transfer to Lake County.

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The purpose of this initiative by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is to promote safe driving practices.

Much of distracted driving centers on cellphone use while driving. Texting and talking on the phone while driving is a huge issue among all age groups, but especially teen drivers. People might think they are capable of driving while texting, but the truth is they are paying more attention to their phone than the road. Even hands-free options are not 100 percent distraction free – people can get more involved in their conversation than the main task at hand. If talking or texting on your phone is something you do, try keeping your phone in the back seat when you are driving. You will be less tempted to grab it at red lights or mess with it while sitting in traffic.

Cell phones are not the only distraction to drivers, people can be distracted by eating, drinking, and even other passengers. While fast food was sort of invented for people on the run, there is no way to stay focused on the road when you are unwrapping a burger or shovelling french fries in your mouth. Most drivers also fail to realize how distracting other passengers can be – screaming kids, rambunctious teens, etc. can all take your attention off the road. In these types of situations, it is actually best to pull the car over and handle whatever you need.

Distracted driving is a major problem on Florida roads, resulting in accidents, injuries, and deaths. According to the the NHTSA, 3,129 people were killed distracted driving accidents in 2014.

Distractions take your eyes off the road, hands off the steering wheel, and your mind away from driving. Distracted driving leads to serious injuries and sometimes, death.

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If a new bill becomes law, you might find yourself in jail for texting and walking in New Jersey.

Last week, New Jersey Legislature introduced a measure that would outlaw texting while walking. If it passes, the penalty could be a $50 fine, 15 days in jail or both.

New Jersey already has a distracted driving ban, violations of which can cost offenders up to $400 for the first infraction. Expanding the ban to walking would increase the state’s traffic safety laws even more.

Studies have found that texting can turn the simple act of walking into something much more perilous. Accidents related to distracted walking have jumped 35 percent since 2010, according to reports from CBS.

According to research from the University of Alabama at Birmingham, people texting while crossing the road are twice as likely to be hit by a car than people talking on their phones.

Distracted walking can be as deadly as distracted driving, according to recent reports. So the question is how can you stop people from using their cellular devices for music, conversations, reading emails and texts, and sending emails and texts while walking? New Jersey is hoping to put an end to the distracted walking by getting government involved, but others disagree and feel that personal responsibility should be emphasized.

There are not enough police officers to be at every intersection to fine or arrest every single person who is texting while crossing the street, so it is up to each individual to behave  responsibly and to encourage everyone else to do so as well. This is more than just a courtesy reminder, it could very well be a matter of life and death.

At this time, Florida does not have any new bills similar to New Jersey’s that could soon be law. However, if the bill does pass and become law, we may see more states following with similar rules, especially if the number of injuries and deaths decrease. Only time will tell for now.

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Uber is facing a lawsuit after one of its drivers crashed while leaving a hotel in Miami Beach.

This collision caused massive brain damage to a nurse visiting from South Carolina.

The lawsuit is the latest against ride-sharing services involved in traffic crashes in Miami-Dade, and comes as the county commission is considering legislation to regulate the business of Uber and its smaller competitor, Lyft.

The suit was filed by the nurse and her husband who were in town for a medical conference back in December. That afternoon, the couple used Uber for a ride from a driver who drove a 2009 Nissan Murano.

According to a police report and the lawsuit, the driver crashed into another car immediately after turning into traffic along Collins Avenue after leaving the hotel. She was cited for failing to yield to oncoming traffic.

The nurse, who specializes in the administration of anesthesia, suffered injuries to her brain and has undergone several surgeries. The nurse’s husband broke his leg in the crash.

According to reports, for now, the woman must wear a helmet to protect her skull before another surgery scheduled later this month.

The popularity of Uber and Lyft – which contract with drivers who use a smartphone app to accept requests for rides – have definitely increased in South Florida and across the country in recent years. However, this is not the first lawsuit that has come up regarding the rideshare apps.

The nurse’s lawsuit is at least the third against a ride-sharing service involved in a crash in the past six months. Each of these cases centers on drivers paying attention to their smart phones, and not the road.

In January, Uber was sued by the relatives of a Miami-Dade College student who was killed in a crash in Kendall. The Uber driver was not faulted in the crash.

Back in November, Lyft was slapped with a lawsuit by the family of a 29-year-old who was thrown off his motorcycle and killed after a crash with a ride-sharing driver in Wynwood.

In the nurse’s suit, the lawsuit alleges Uber failed to realize that the driver “was not qualified, had not received sufficient training and was not being supervised” properly.

The rise in popularity of Uber, as well as Lyft, has spurred much controversy from taxi drivers as local governments have struggled with how to legalize the operations. Miami-Dade county regulators say Uber drivers violate for-hire rules, but the popularity of the service has put enormous pressure on commissioners.

Both companies require a good amount of part-time drivers to provide both the blanket coverage and competitive rates that have made the services so popular.

Broward County initially required fingerprinting drivers, but backed after both Uber and Lyft made threats to leave the market last summer. By the fall, Broward had adopted legislation pushed by the companies.

After a Michigan Uber driver was arrested and charged with fatally shooting six people, Miami-Dade commissioners have threatened to impose a fingerprint requirement. The commission will vote in May.

It will be interesting to see how this suit plays out in the court system as it is likely that this issue will to continue to be a problem.

Remember, if you have been injured or have lost someone you care for as a direct result of someone else’s negligence or carelessness, our South Florida Injury Lawyers at Whittel & Melto are ready and able to assist you with your case. Your personal injury and wrongful death consultations are free of charge, and we are always happy to discuss what we can do for you.

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