April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Did you know that? What is driver distraction? Why is there an entire month dedicated to it, and what must motorists in St. Petersburg know to avoid contravening the law?

Distracted driving or driver distraction happens when a person behind the steering wheel (limiting it to cars alone) loses concentration in a split second or two, leading to a fatal collision on the highway. In April, awareness against driver distraction is amplified. It is amplified because one form of driver distraction or the other is the cause for half of every highway or traffic accident.

CONSIDERING STATISTICS (USA)

According to the Association for Safe International Road Travel: 

  • More than 38,000 people die every year in crashes on U.S. roadways. The U.S. traffic fatality rate is 12.4 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants.
  • An additional 4.4 million are injured seriously enough to require medical attention.
  • Crashes on the road are the leading cause of death in the U.S. for people aged 1-54.
  • The economic and societal impact of road crashes costs U.S. citizens $871 billion.
  • Road crashes cost the U.S. more than $380 million in direct medical costs.
  • The U.S. suffers the most road crash deaths of any high-income country, about 50% higher than similar countries in Western Europe, Canada, Australia, and Japan.
  • Pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities continue to rise in the United States. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), more pedestrians and cyclists were killed in 2018 than in any year since 1990.

CONSIDERING STATISTICS (ST PETERSBURG)

According to the ‘Overview of Motor Vehicle Crashes 2020’ of the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency, the state of Florida has ranked the third-highest state (coming behind the state of Texas and California) of total fatalities in motor vehicle accidents. Total Fatalities in 2020 were 3,331 and 3185 in 2019, a +4.3% increase in car accident fatalities in just one year.

COMMON EXAMPLES OF DRIVER DISTRACTION

1. Texting or calling while driving

The use of cell phones is the most typical example of driver distraction. The habit of making calls, receiving calls, or replying to or composing a text message behind a steering wheel has cost many people more than they can pay for. Local news heads lines and front page tabloids have featured the aftermath of avoidable ghastly collisions and deaths, with driver distraction as its main culprit. In Florida, texting and driving is a primary offense. The law came into existence in 2019 under the hand of Gov. Ron DeSantis with the hopes of keeping the roads safe. It is now an offense to drive and text in Florida with a penalty of 30 dollars for a first-time offender and may escalate to as high as 100 dollars.   

The use of a cell phone while driving is a primary offense. By primary offense, we mean that it is an act that can warrant a law enforcement officer like a Police officer to hand a motorist a ticket. Examples of simple offenses are coded in Chapters 316, 320, and 322 of the Florida Statutes.

2. Distraction by a passenger 

Distraction can come from another passenger in the vehicle. Distractions from kids and minors can play a considerable role in drivers’ loss of concentration and, ultimately, a fatal crash. A more prevalent example is when many juveniles are the drivers and passengers of a vehicle. And if these juveniles are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, it will open Pandora’s box of many fatalities.

 3. Emotional and Psychological state (A wandering mind)

The state of our mind and our mental and emotional health play an important role in executing our daily tasks. Many drivers simply ‘lost in thought’ have become victims or made other people victims of accidents. When moving a vehicle, the eyes and the mind must be focused on the road. A wandering mind or one simply lost in thought is one of the leading causes of distracted driving. 

4. External Factors (Rubbernecking)

Externals factors play a considerable in driver distraction. By external factors, we mean where the driver’s attention diverts to anything else other than the road. Prominent amongst these forms of external factors is rubbernecking. The Virginia Commonwealth University, in their 2003 research, submitted that rubbernecking was responsible for 16% of all distracted driving accidents.

Other common examples are eating and drinking, alcohol, loud and unnecessary discussions, and arguments.

AVOIDING DISTRACTED DRIVING IN ST. PETERSBURG 

Pressure groups have advocated for outlawing driving and texting altogether. Motorists should understand that no matter how enticing it is to pick up a call or reply to a text while driving, the consequence may be more than the driver intends. The call or message can wait until the driver is adequately parked or it is safe enough to pick up. 

Drives must avoid seeming distractions behind the steering wheel. Motorists should not self-distract or entertain distractions from other passengers in the vehicle. There is a duty of care that must be acknowledged and respected by all road users. Some drivers have resorted to hand-free devices like Bluetooth speakers to make and receive calls while driving. It can be argued that such devices can help the driver focus his eyes on the road and not a phone screen; this is, however, not a cure for distracted driving. 

Drivers should avoid changing car settings, resetting the air-conditioner’s temperature, arbitrarily changing radio stations, or anything that can cause them to shift their gaze from the highway. According to the Fleet Auto News:  At 50km per hour, even a 2-second glance at your phone means you’ll travel up to 28 meters blind. What will you miss?”

Awareness campaigns should be organized during the National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and as often as possible. 

THE LAW IN ST PETERSBURG: RIGHTS OF AN INJURED PERSON

A person who suffers an injury from distracted driving is entitled to monetary compensation in St Petersburg. The claimant must show that the driver was negligent. To succeed in a negligence claim, the driver must have a duty of care to the injured person. 

In addition, the claimant must show that there was a breach of that duty of care, that the breach has caused him an injury, and finally, that the injury occurred after the accident caused by the driver.  

An Injured person can bring a claim for several injuries that result from distracted driving. For example, an injured party can get compensation for the physical and emotional trauma occasioned by the distracted driver. He can sue to recover the medical expenses deployed to his treatment. A surviving relative can bring an action for wrongful death. If a person loses his spouse to distracted driving, he may bring an action for loss of consortium. He is entitled to pursue his legal rights against a distracted driver if the personal property of the injured party was damaged. If the injured party loses his wages or means of livelihood because of the injury suffered, he may bring an action. In all these instances, the injured party or his surviving relative are entitled to compensation.

WHAT AN INJURED PERSON MUST KNOW

If a person injured by a distracted driver and wishes to pursue his legal rights, he must do so within four years from the date the incident occurred or else would be barred or estopped from doing so. The person who desires to pursue his legal right must do so by instituting a personal injury claim. 

Where the injury leads to death, the deceased’s living relatives must file a claim for wrongful death within two years.

By advising people to retain the services of an auto accident attorney, we can help to initiate these producers.

THE ROLE OF AN AUTO ACCIDENT ATTORNEY IN ST PETERSBURG AND WHY YOU NEED ONE 

If you have suffered an injury by a distracted driver and seek to pursue your legal rights by way of compensation or redress, you should contact an Auto Accident Attorney. 

An auto accident attorney in St Petersburg will advance you on your case’s relative strengths and weaknesses. Whether or not you have a cause of action and what are the chances of success if the matter proceeds to trial.  

Your attorney’s role is to prepare the necessary paperwork and documents for filing.

An attorney will help you pursue your legal right so that justice will be served.

Attorneys must serve as your legal representative in court and can help you adequately prepare for trial.

Your attorney will act as your intermediary and legal representative with the distracted driver, and the insurance company or any other third party is liable to pay.

Sources

https://www.asirt.org/safe-travel/road-safety-facts/

https://www.istockphoto.com/search/2/image?

https://crashstats.nhtsa.dot.gov/Api/Public/ViewPublication/813266

CONTENT 

  • INTRODUCTION
  • STATISTICS (USA)
  • STATISTICS (ST PETERSBURG)
  • COMMON EXAMPLES OF DRIVER DISTRACTION
  • AVOIDING DISTRACTED DRIVING IN ST. PETERSBURG
  • THE LAW IN ST PETERSBURG: RIGHTS OF AN INJURED PERSON
  • WHAT AN INJURED PERSON MUST KNOW
  • THE ROLE OF AN AUTO ACCIDENT ATTORNEY IN ST PETERSBURG AND WHY YOU NEED ONE 
  • SOURCES

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