Most drivers have been guilty of rubbernecking at one point or the other. We do not think it is because they have bad intentions or were out to violate a provision of the law.

Many people do not think that rubbernecking is harmful or that it amounts to distracted driving, which is prohibited by the law in Florida. However, rubbernecking which may start as looking at something harmless, can lead to an unexpected and horrific end.

Florida has a distracted driving law. This is expedient because distracted driving has led to many accidents. So let’s dig into Florida’s distracted driving law.

Florida’s Distracted Driving Law

Florida has a distracted driving law in place. It addresses distracted driving and rubbernecking, particularly using your mobile while driving. Usually, when distracted driving is mentioned, what comes to many people’s minds is texting or calling when driving. Little attention is paid to rubbernecking. However, it is a culprit as other distracted driving habits in causing accidents.

The law prohibiting texting while driving is codified in Section 316.305 of the Florida Statutes, it is cited as the Florida ban on texting while driving law. The law provides that:

A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for non-voice interpersonal communication, including but not limited to communication methods known as texting, emailing, and instant messaging. As used in this section, the term “wireless communications device” means any handheld device used or capable of being used in a handheld manner that is designed or intended to receive or transmit text or character-based messages, access or store data, or connect to the Internet or any communications service as defined in s. 812.15, and that allows text communications. For this paragraph, a stationary motor vehicle is not being operated and is not subject to the prohibition. 

Distracted Driving Statistics 

A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Agency conducted in May 2010 titled the Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crash 2010 submitted that crashes in which at least one driver was identified as being distracted resulted in 3,267 fatalities, 735,000 nonfatal injuries, and damaged 3.3 million vehicles in property-damage-only crashes in 2010. This represents about 10 percent of all motor vehicle fatalities and 18 percent of all nonfatal crashes. In addition, these crashes cost $39.7 billion in 2010, roughly 16 percent of all economic costs from motor vehicle crashes.

According to research by the Florida Highway Motor and Safety Agency (FHMSA), distracted driving fatality crashes involving a distracted driver have climbed steadily from 2015 through 2021. Except in 2020, when the number declined. In 2015, the number of distracted driving fatality crashes was 219, and 245 in 2016. The number increased to 236 in 2017 but declined to 235 and 268 in 2018 and 2019, respectively. Finally, the number increased to 315 in 2020 and 350 in 2021. 

Distracted Driving Crash Statistics in Florida for the year 2021

Number of distracted driving fatalities- 350

Number of distracted driving serious bodily injuries- 2,726

Total number of distracted driving crashes- 5,6594 

Types of Distracted Driving

The Florida Highway Motor and Safety Agency classifies distracted driving into three types. 

  • Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
  • Manual: Taking your hands off the wheel
  • Cognitive: Thinking about anything other than driving

Rubbernecking is a Form of Distracted Driving Habit

When many people think of distracted driving, rubbernecking is not what first comes to mind. Texting and calling are quicker examples that readily come to mind. Many drivers do not correctly assume that looking at something aside from what is in front of them is distracted driving, a punishable offense under the law.

Suppose rubbernecking was to be categorized under the three types of distracted driving as the Florida Highway Motor and Safety Agency put forward. In that case, it will first and foremost be classified as a visual. 

Why do Drivers Engage in Rubbernecking?

We have listed a few reasons below

  • Curiosity
  • Trying to take a second glance
  • Trying to get a better view of a scene
  • Watching other people (watching emergency workers do their job, watching a fight or a display or exhibition) 

Why Rubbernecking is Dangerous 

Rubbernecking will cause a driver to take their eyes off the road. Unfortunately, anything can happen in these few seconds, leading to an emergency. When drivers take their eyes off the road, even for a second, they will lose sight of the road. Sometimes pedestrians, especially vulnerable categories like children and minors, can run across the road. Therefore, it is possible for a rubbernecking driver not to see an oncoming car or a truck.

Sometimes rubbernecking may cause a driver to slow down their speed. It may lead to a rear-end collision with another driver that did not anticipate that the driver would slow down abruptly.

How to Prevent Accidents Caused by Rubbernecking in Tampa and St. Petersburg 

  • Observing Florida’s move-over law: Florida’s move-over law requires a driver, when passing by parked emergency workers, law enforcement, utility vehicles, etc., to slow down and move over to prevent putting the driver and other people at risk. The FHMSA advice that
  • If you can’t move over or on a two-lane road, slow to a speed of 20 mph less than the posted speed limit.
  • Slow down to 5 mph when the posted speed limit is 20 mph or less.
  • Avoiding distraction: When steering at a scene or group of persons will amount to distraction, drivers must avoid this. Distractions must be identified and treated as such. The best thing to do when driving past an accident scene, where emergency workers are trying to salvage the situation is for drivers to drive safely and carefully. In this kind of situation, minding your business is the best advice.

If you are compassionate, you should get off the danger zone first and park safely before going ahead to see what help you can render.   

  1. Educational Campaigns: By law, Florida’s Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicle is responsible for providing campaign awareness to Floridians on the move-over law.

The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles shall provide an educational awareness campaign informing the motoring public about the Move Over Act. In addition, the department shall provide information about the Move Over Act in all newly printed driver’s license educational materials.

Asides from the work of the agency, distracted driving awareness campaigns should be spearheaded by individuals, charities, and profit and non-profit organizations on the types of distracted driving habits during Florida’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month and all year round.

Are There Exceptions to Florida’s Ban Against Texting Law?

Section 316.305, Florida Statutes, the law also does not apply to a motor vehicle operator who is:

  • Performing official duties as an operator of an authorized emergency vehicle (law enforcement, fire service, or emergency medical services professional).
  • Reporting an emergency or criminal or suspicious activity to law enforcement authorities.
  • Receiving messages that are: related to the operation or navigation of the motor vehicle; safety-related information, including emergency, traffic, or weather alerts; data used primarily by the motor vehicle; or radio broadcasts.
  • Using a device or system for navigation purposes.
  • Conducting wireless interpersonal communication that does not require manual entry of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
  • Wireless communication does not require reading text messages, except to activate, deactivate, or initiate a feature or function.
  • Operating an autonomous vehicle in autonomous mode.

Did a Distracted Driver Cause Your Accident?

According to Fleet Auto News:  At 50km per hour, even a 2-second glance at your phone means you’ll travel up to 28 meters blind. So what will you miss?”

While this question is best suited for a distracted driver, in our opinion, a more right question for the victim is, “did that decision cost you your wellbeing?”

Have you suffered an injury that a distracted driver caused, and you seek to pursue your legal rights by compensation or redress?

At the Coleman Law Group, we will help you fight your case with professionalism and expertise.

Leave a comment