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Distracted Drivers, Not Drunk Drivers Are The Biggest Risk

As we enter the 20s, we can see that a lot of progress has been made in vehicle safety. Practices that were once common, such as people not wearing seatbelts while driving, are mostly things of the past. And even drunk driving, once an offense taken far less seriously, has seen a drop in tragic accidents as punishments have become more severe in line with the possible preventable injuries and loss of life in such accidents.

However, while many people breathe a sigh of relief that drunk driving is not as prominent as it once was, this can often hide a more significant risk. While most news headlines will flash a story about a tragic accident caused by a drunk driver, the far bigger threat is the other “d” word, distracted driving.

It’s Not Criminal

The leading cause of car accidents in the United States, including Florida, is distracted driving. Unlike drunk driving, there are no immediate signs that can alert bystanders that someone may not have the required awareness or reflexes to drive a motor vehicle. No test can be taken to look for narcotic substances in the bloodstream to account for poor driving performance.

Distracted driving, exactly as the name implies, is about a driver who may be otherwise alert, sober, and in full control of reflexes and response times, getting momentarily distracted and not paying attention to the road or vehicle handling.

As a result, while distracted driving can be considered a traffic violation, it’s not necessarily a criminal offense since no substance consumption is involved. Distracted driving can happen at any moment and is not precipitated by a specific chemical cause.

The Most Famous Distracted Driving Accident In America

Distracted driving, unfortunately, can have the same tragic consequences as drunk driving, even without the presence of alcohol. One of the most famous distracted driving cases in American history occurred in Maine in 1999.

Stephen King is both nationally and globally famous as one of the great horror writers of all time. In 1999, as was his habit, he took a walk near his home, taking care to stay on the shoulder of the road and out of the way of vehicles traveling. Unfortunately, as he was taking one of his usual walks, Bryan Smith was driving down the same road at the same time.

Bryan Smith had a history of drunk driving and other traffic offenses. In the previous year, he’d had three license suspensions alone. However, he was sober, but he was driving his van with one of his pets, a rottweiler. The dog was trying to get into a cooler filled with beer, and Smith turned around to try to discipline the dog and get the situation under control.

At the moment Smith was doing this, he let his van swerve, and it left the road and went onto the shoulder at the exact spot King was walking. He got hit by the van, getting thrown off the road and instantly breaking his leg, hip, and puncturing a lung. Miraculously, he survived the accident. After getting convicted of driving to endanger and aggravated assault, Bryan Smith tragically could not recover his life from the accident and eventually was found dead two years later from an overdose of painkillers.

The Legal Situation In Florida

Distracted driving in Florida requires one of three basic requirements: the discretion of a police officer on the scene, eyewitness reports, or evidence submitted in court. To be charged with distracted driving, a driver must be distracted in one or more areas:
Visual: The driver takes eyes off the road
Manual: The driver takes hands off the wheel or feet off the braking or acceleration pedals.
Cognitive: The driver is concentrating on something other than situational awareness of the road.
One of the most common causes of distracted driving accidents in Florida is people taking the time to receive and send text messages on phones while behind the wheel. Text-messaging is considered one of the worst offenders for distracted driving. It meets all three criteria, with drivers not looking at the road, taking hands off the wheel, and concentrating on the text message instead of the road.
As a result, in 2019, the state passed a new law, known as the Wireless Communications While Driving law that has made it illegal for drivers to use phones for text messaging purposes while behind the wheel.
We Can Help
Distracted driving can have the same negative, life-changing ramifications for victims as that of drunk driving. If you’ve been injured in a car accident where the other driver was distracted, get legal help. You do not have to bear financial and medical responsibility for someone else’s mistakes on the road.
Talk to an experienced car accident attorney and determine how you can make those responsible for an accident be held accountable for what they’ve done.

During his time as a public attorney for the State of Florida, Bernard Walsh developed a passion for defending the legal rights of Florida's citizens. Having seen many people being taken advantage of after being injured and the financial harm that can cause for families he committed himself fully to helping injured clients get justice, by fighting to make greedy insurance companies pay what they owe.

Distracted Drivers, Not Drunk Drivers Are The Biggest Risk

Goldman Babboni Fernandez
Murphy & Walsh

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