Written on May 12, 2022 3:26:09 PM
Distracted Driving Laws in Florida (Plus the Top Causes of Driver Inattention)
In today’s fast-paced world, we’re always trying to multitask to get the most things done in the least amount of time. And, with technology allowing us to stay always connected, it frequently has us becoming distracted even – even when driving. So what is distracted driving? What are the top causes of it? And what does Florida law say about it? Let’s dive in!
What Is Distracted Driving? What Is Driver Inattention?
Distracted driving occurs when a driver engages in a secondary activity that interferes with the primary task of operating a vehicle. Drivers can be distracted in many ways by things happening inside or outside of the vehicle. Some of the top causes of driver inattention and motor vehicle accidents include:
So, what are the three main categories of distracted driving?
- Visual: Taking your eyes off the road
- Physical: Taking your hands off the steering wheel
- Cognitive: Taking your attention away from the driving task. Cognitive distraction usually accompanies physical and visual distractions
What’s the difference between distracted driving and driver inattention? It’s the nature of the activity. Driver inattention is a preoccupation with internalized thoughts, while driver distraction requires external factors (a phone, food, a child or pet, etc).
Distracted Driving Statistics
According to Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), more than 56,000 distracted driving crashes occurred in Florida in 2021, and 75% of those crashes were caused by the driver being inattentive behind the wheel.
Ever wonder how many crashes are caused by distracted driving? On average, the FLHSMV estimates that there are more than 1,000 distracted driving crashes every week across the Sunshine State each year. Distracted driving is so prevalent that the FLHSMV just released a distracted driving campaign for Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Driver Distraction and “Inattention Blindness”
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Secondary task distractions are those that divert attention from the road and may include using a handheld device, applying makeup, or dealing with disruptive children or pets in the back seat.
- Driving-related inattention occurs when drivers engage in activities such as looking down at the speedometer, checking mirrors, and glancing over to look for blind spots before changing lanes and parking.
- Non-specific driver inattention happens when a driver momentarily looks away from the road but at no particular object, person, or activity.
- Drowsiness also can be considered inattention, as it involves closing your eyes, repeated yawning, and other related behaviors.
According to a report by the National Safety Council, vision is the most important factor for safe driving. The report also states that drivers may physically see something but not mentally register objects. For example, the council estimates that when using cell phones, drivers look but fail to see or mentally process upwards of 50% of what’s happening in the environment around them and their vehicle. This form of "inattention blindness" is similar to the concept of tunnel vision in that a person is unable to process everything they see to effectively identify and respond to potential hazards or unexpected situations.
Top 5 Distractions That Cause Distracted Driving
Many things can cause driving distractions, from noisy children to a restless dog. However, these are the top five causes of driving distraction accidents.
1. Phone Use
These days, a phone can be almost anything. A phone can be a radio, a GPS, or a computer. It is for this reason that a phone is at the top of the list of the most common distraction while driving. Whether a driver uses their phone for texting, calling, finding directions, or searching the web, just the act of paying attention to your phone while driving is a recipe for a distraction-related accident. Phones cause a distraction because they take both your eyes and your hands away from the act of driving, which means you lessen your means of both reaction time and availability.
The best advice we can give in relation to driving and cellphones: Do not text while driving. Texting and driving is now a primary offense in Florida, and you will be pulled over for it, ticketed, and fined. Penalties for distracted driving with a phone include a non-moving traffic violation (no points) and a $30 fine for the first offense. Second and subsequent offenses within a five-year period are considered a moving violation (3 points) and a $60 fine. Of course, with fees and court costs, this can go well over $100. Read more about Florida’s texting and driving laws.
While it may be tempting to grab a bite for the road or get a fast breakfast before another day in the office, eating requires your attention to be on your food (and it takes one of your hands off the wheel to hold it). Plus, dropping or spilling food or drink is also sure to lead to distraction. Losing your ability to react due to eating can be as detrimental as driving while intoxicated.
3. Daydreaming/Outside Distractions
After a survey of primary causes of car accidents, many of those involved said that their respective accidents were caused by daydreaming or outside distractions. Daydreaming takes attention away from the world, which is of course dangerous when you’re behind the wheel.
A similar factor in this category is an outside distraction. During or after an accident, drivers will slow down to watch the lights from the responding official and paramedic vehicles as they pass by. This is known as “rubbernecking” and it slows the flow of traffic and takes many pairs of eyes off of the road at one time. This creates the chance of a second accident occurring on what is already the scene of an accident.
Everyone has those days when they are running late for work, dinner, a party, and so on. At times like these, people will do the shortened version of their grooming routine at home and take the rest of their routine with them to finish later. Unfortunately, this “later” usually means during the drive. This includes combing or brushing hair, putting on makeup, shaving with an electric razor – even brushing one’s teeth.
5. Music/Electronic Devices
While phone use is a category of its own, other electronics can cause just as many issues as a phone. Other electronics include your GPS device, a music player, a tablet, and even the radio of your car. Music itself can even be a distraction when it's played too loudly!
10 Tips to Avoid Distracted Driving
Making the effort to pay attention at all times while driving saves lives. Here are a few tips to help ensure your eyes stay on the road and your hands stay on the wheel.
- Refrain from using your phone. If you are expecting an important phone call while on the road, find a place to safely pull over and answer that phone call. If you absolutely must answer a call or text, put the phone on its speaker setting or use voice command to respond to the text. or have a passenger answer the call/text. Many phones also will allow you to put yourself “away” so that people know not to text or call.
- Familiarize yourself with your car’s features. If you are driving an unfamiliar vehicle, practice finding controls before you drive. Make sure you know how to control windshield wipers, lights, heat, and radio without taking your eyes off the road. If you are driving an unfamiliar vehicle, practice finding controls before you drive.
- Program your GPS in advance. If you use GPS, enter an address or location before you get on the road. Make sure audio turn-by-turn directions are on and easy to hear. Check out our blog on the 8 Ways to Help Avoid GPS Driver Distraction for more.
- Minimize stress. Do not engage in difficult or emotional conversations while driving. If your children are being loud, talk to them about the importance of not distracting you while driving.
- Minimize distractions. If you need to take care of something in the back seat, pull over when it is safe to do so.
- Leave Fido at home. Unless you’re taking your pet to the vet, dog park, or groomer, consider leaving them at home. If you are going to travel with your pet, secure them with a pet harness.
- Avoid eating while driving. If you’re feeling hungry, pull over somewhere safe to eat. Another option is to leave earlier for your destination so you can eat in the parking lot with the car safely stationary.
- Plan and prepare. Get up earlier for the morning commute or start getting ready sooner for other events if you regularly find yourself grooming in the car.
- Create a music playlist in advance. Constantly fiddling with the radio or other device? Create a playlist of your favorite songs so that you’re not tempted to adjust songs or stations.
- Get sleep. Coffee can only do so much, so don’t drive if you’re feeling tired. Drowsy driving can be as dangerous as drunk driving.
Need a Distracted Driving Injury Lawyer?
Distracted driving is a big problem, and until self-driving cars have completely taken over, it will likely continue to be that way despite fines and points. While there are distracted driving lawyers who will help fight distracted driving tickets and fines, at Lowman Law Firm, we fight for those who’ve been injured by distracted drivers.
If you’ve been injured in an accident, our distracted driving injury lawyers can help to ensure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Our auto accident attorneys serve all of Florida, with offices in Citrus County, Hernando County, Hillsborough County, and Pasco County. Not able to come to us? We’ll come to you! We offer free home and hospital consultations. And, there’s never a fee until you win your case.