Dangerous Highways and Distracted Driving: A Hazardous Mixture During the Holidays in Florida

During the holiday season, many will travel on the highways around the country to visit loved ones and enjoy this wonderful time of the year. The last thing we want is the highways to be the means we hurt or injured ourselves or others on the road. Unfortunately Florida has the dubious distinction of having some of the most dangerous highways in the nation. Florida also is rated number one in distracted drivers, and along with these dangerous highways can make Florida a perilous place to drive.

Florida has about 1500 miles of interstate highways and over 17 million licensed drivers. According to the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, there were more than 400,000 vehicle crashes in 2017. These crashes involved more than 686,000 drivers with about 1,100 crashes each day on Florida interstates, highways, and other roads. More than 3,100 people died in these crashes and over a quarter million people were injured. More than 20,000 vehicle accident victims suffered injuries that were incapacitating. Hillsborough County had 27,909 accidents in 2017 with 191 fatalities and 20,682 injuries. Collier County had 5135 accidents with 23 fatalities and 2819 injuries.

Interstate 4(I-4) has been named the most dangerous highway in America by Teletrac Navman, a GPS tracking company, with 1.25 fatalities per mile. I-4 runs 133 miles and connects Tampa, Orland, Daytona Beach and Lakeland.

US Route 1 is another dangerous highway that runs 500 miles along the east coast. There were over 1000 fatal crashes over the past 10 years killing 1079 people.

Interstate 95: The Atlantic Coast Highway, which runs from Miami to Maine, is one of the most dangerous stretches of road, not only in Florida, but in the entire nation. The U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reports that of the 1,040 miles of the I-95 corridor that traverse through urban areas, 60 percent is under heavy congestion. In fact, the average amount of daily traffic in the corridor is 72,000, with maximum daily traffic reaching as high as 300,000 vehicles. Not only are there thousands of cars using I-95, but thousands of trucks too, increasing the danger for everyone. To be sure, the same source reports that truck traffic totals as much as 31,000 as a daily maximum.

US 41: Another study found that in 2014, that the most dangerous Florida road was U.S. 41. 559 crashes in 2014 caused death or an incapacitating injury. Some of the dangerous US. 41 stretches include roads near Charlotte, Collier, and Lee counties and North Fort Myers.

But any road can be dangerous due to distracted driving. We live in the age of distracted driving with our cell phones becoming a dangerous distraction with texting and GPS. Distracted driving is anything that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road or mind off driving. It is extremely risky behavior that puts everyone on the road in danger. Distractions can range from texting, to tending to kids in the car, to adjusting the radio, eating or taking your mind off driving.

To successfully avoid a crash, a driver must perceive a hazard, react and give the vehicle time to stop. Driver perception distance, or the distance a vehicle travels from the time a driver sees a hazard until the brain recognizes it, and reaction distance, the distance a car will continue to travel after seeing a hazard until the driver physically hits the brakes, dramatically affects a vehicle’s stopping distance. Even a focused driver going 50 mph will travel nearly the length of a football field before coming to a complete stop.

The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is partnering with the Florida Department of Transportation and law enforcement partners to educate Floridians on the changes to distracted driving law with the Put It Down: Focus on Driving campaign. The Wireless Communications While Driving Law, section 316.305, Florida Statutes, took effect on July 1, 2019. This new law requires drivers to put their phones down and focus on driving.

What is the Wireless Communications While Driving Law?

Section 316.305, Florida Statutes allows law enforcement to stop motor vehicles and issue citations to motorists that are texting and driving. A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers or symbols into a wireless communications device to text, email and instant message.

Section 316.306, Florida Statutes, is a prohibition on using wireless communications devices in a handheld manner in school and work zone.  A person may not operate a motor vehicle while using a wireless communications device in a handheld manner in a designated school crossing, school zone or active work zone area. Active work zone, as it pertains to Section 316.306, Florida Statutes, means that construction personnel are present or are operating equipment on the road or immediately adjacent to the work zone area.

This holiday season let’s establish the good habit of driving focused without distractions and putting our cell phone down and concentrate on driving. We all want to make it to our family and friends safely without an accident. Also do not drive angry or aggressive as it increases the risk of an accident. You will get where you are going and getting there a few minutes early is not worth the risk of an accident. There are more road rage incidents during this time of the year when the highways are packed. Take a deep breath, and relax and do not anger control your actions behind the wheel.

If you have been injured by the actions of a distracted driver, call Rowe Law Offices, PLLC, to understand your rights and what actions to take to protect you and your family.

Let’s make this the best holiday season ever and let it start with driving safe without distractions and aggression.

5 Things You Must Do if You Are in An Auto Accident in Florida

  • Call police-It is important that the police come out and document the accident and do a report. Do not be fooled into just exchanging information as often the at-fault driver will change his story later to benefit him or her and the insurance company. The officer will document contributing factors to an accident, and the other driver is usually more truthful with the officer at the scene then he or she will be days later. The officer can also talk to important witnesses of the accident that may be hard to track down later. The insurance company has less wiggle room when the investigating officer concludes that their insured was at fault. If you are injured, tell the officer and if necessary ask for an ambulance.
  • Take photographs and document all physical evidence at the scene– This can become very important in the future if the insurance company tries to say you are at fault. Property damage photos of both vehicles and final resting places after impact are important to document. Also take photos of any other evidence at the scene such as tire marks, damaged signs, and debris. If you are in shock and not physically able to do this, it is always a good idea to call a friend or relative to come to the scene and assist you. If the case gets into litigation, this can be critical evidence in proving fault and even damages to a jury.
  • Seek Medical Attention Immediately- Do not delay. In Florida to qualify for PIP (Personal Injury Protection Coverage) you must seek medical care within 14 days of the accident. Often you may feel worse days after the accident, so it is important to have a complete diagnosis of your injuries. This can also help you heal from your injuries and give you a better prognosis on your future health. If there are gaps in medical treatment, the insurance company will not think you are hurt or in pain enough to seek medical treatment, and it could affect the ultimate outcome of your case. There is no reason to delay seeing a doctor or going to a hospital. Let the medical professional determine the nature and extent of your injuries and your need for further medical treatment.
  • Contact your Insurance Company- You need to contact your insurance company immediately and tell them you were in accident even it was not your fault. Also check the declarations page of your policy to determine all coverages you have including medical payments coverage, uninsured motorist and underinsured motorist and PIP coverage. So often people think they have “full coverage” when they do not. It is also important to get insurance information from the other driver. However be careful not to give a statement to the insurance adjuster until you have a chance to talk to an attorney. Adjusters are trained to get you say things that may diminish your injuries and raise issues of fault. Do not sign anything either until you have sought legal advice. You do not want to release your claim prematurely.
  • Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer-it is very important to talk to a personal injury lawyer as soon as possible. Almost all personal injury lawyers will give you a free consultation so you know all of your legal rights. Insurance companies may offer you a few hundred dollars to try to get you to settle your case and sign a release. Do not fall for this tactic. When your injuries are in an acute phase, it is impossible to know the full extent of your injuries and your prognosis for the future. To settle quickly usually invites trouble as once you sign a release, the case is gone. A personal injury lawyer can advise you of the proper steps to take to make sure that you protect yourself and your right to compensation. At Rowe Law Offices, we represent the injured who are trying to put their lives together again. Call Rowe Law Offices for a free consultation to understand all your legal rights and what steps to take to navigate through your personal injury case.