Archive for April, 2013

Texting and Driving Bill Before the Florida House

Texting and driving is extremely dangerous behavior. In fact, Distraction.gov indicates that a person who is sending or receiving a text has a 23 times greater accident risk than a person who is not focused on his phone while behind the wheel. Further,  a person who is sending or receiving a text will look away from the road for 4.6 seconds and, if he was going 55 mph, would drive a whole football field during that time … blind. 

With texting and driving such an inherently and obviously dangerous behavior, every expert has recommended that states impose bans on texting and driving for all drivers. Our West Palm Beach accident attorneys are firmly in support of such a ban, but no ban has managed to pass in Florida yet. Now, however, a new law may be gaining some traction.

Florida Texting and Driving Ban Gains Ground

In the 2013 legislative season, a bill has been put before the Florida house that would make texting and driving illegal. An article on News Channel 5 reported that the Senate panel unanimously approved the bill, voting in favor 9-0. The bill has now moved to the house, where House Speaker Will Weatherford has said he is taking no position and intends to let his members vote their conscious.

The ban would impose a $30 fine on first-time offenders who are caught texting and driving. If someone broke the law twice within five years, he or she would receive a $60 fine for the second texting-and-driving offense. The offenses are secondary offenses, however, which means that people can only be cited for texting and driving if they are pulled over for some other traffic offense, such as speeding.

Some critics argue that the ban doesn’t go far enough, especially since the fines are relatively small and since drivers cannot be pulled over for texting alone. However, the hope is that the law will actually be able to get through the lawmaking process and will ultimately provide at least some protection for Florida drivers.

Florida is one of a small minority of states that has no texting and driving restrictions in place. A similar texting and driving law has made its way to the Florida legislature every year for the past three years but has died each time because lawmakers argue that it is an unjust intrusion on the freedom of drivers. Lawmakers who are opposed also argue that law enforcement should enforce the existing laws on the books before adding new ones.

Proponents of the law, however, hope that the bill has gained traction in the house this year and that it might have a chance of passing. WPTV cited the sponsor of the bill, Sen. Nancy Detert, as saying “this epidemic has to stop,” in reference to the high number of texting and driving accidents occurring in the state. If the law is able to pass, hopefully the number of deaths and serious injuries will come down and all Florida drivers will be safer on the roads.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., at (800) 608-2965 for a free and confidential consultation.

Archive for April, 2013

West Palm Beach Traffic Accidents & the Risk of Teen Drivers

Recently, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) released preliminary information on the number of teen car accident deaths that occurred over the first six months of 2012. The GHSA provided information on how the death-rate compared with 2011 as well as details on the changes in the number of fatalities in all 50 states.

Our West Palm Beach accident attorneys have reviewed the new GHSA report in order to get a clear picture of whether the roads are getting safer for teens. The data has some good news for Florida but some bad news for the United States as a whole.

Teen Car Accident Deaths Rise Across the U.S.

According to the GHSA data, preliminary estimates indicate that more teen drivers died in 2012 than in 2011. The information available was provided by GHSA members from all 50 states, and the data is available on car accident fatalities over the first six months of 2012. The number of deaths during this six-month period was compared to the same six month period from 2011.

The year-to-year comparison shows a 19 percent increase in the number of deaths of drivers ages 16 and 17. If this trend continues into the final data, then GHSA reports that 2012 will be the second year in a row that the teen fatality rate from auto accidents increased. Prior to the increase in 2011, there had been eight years of decreases.

GHSA has several theories about why these increases are occurring. One issue is that the improved economy is resulting in more teenage drivers on the road. Another problem is that many states have stopped making advancements to or improvements in their graduated driver licensing laws. These two factors combined could help to explain why more teenage drivers are losing their lives in auto accidents.

Florida Data on Teen Accident Rate

While the news on the national level was bad, the numbers in Florida are considerably better. According to the GHSA’s state-by-state information, there were fourteen deaths of 16- and 17-year-old drivers during the first six months of 2011. In 2012, however, there were only five deaths during the first half of the year.

The fact that there were nine fewer deaths this year stands in stark contrast to states such as Indiana and Tennessee, which each had sixteen more fatalities in 2012 as compared with 2011.

However, GHSA indicates that these numbers are statistically small and that fluctuation among the states and from year-to-year is normal and should not be taken as necessarily reflecting any type of policy shifts or policy differences among the states.

The low number of deaths in Florida in the first half of the year, therefore, is only a limited positive since the fact remains that the number of deaths of young teen drivers increased overall.

It is important for states to put safety programs in place and for parents to talk to their teenagers about safe driving in order to try to curb the overall rise in fatalities. Parents should discuss with their teens the dangers of talking on the cell phone, texting, and drinking and driving.

Emphasis on driver education programs could also help to resolve the problem of the increasing number of teen car accident deaths.

If you’ve been injured in an accident, contact Gonzalez & Cartwright, P.A., at (800) 608-2965 for a free and confidential consultation.