Car Accidents Related to Cell Phones

Cell phone car accidents are a major problem in the U.S., and Florida has one of the highest rates of crashes attributed to cell phone use in the nation.

At The Ansara Law Firm, our Fort Lauderdale car accident attorneys know the use of a cell phone behind the wheel is a form of driver negligence. When those actions lead to an injury-causing accident, we fight to ensure victims receive just compensation.

Many states have banned motorists from sending and receiving text messages while the vehicle is in motion. Florida is one of the last states to take this measure, but there has been ample criticism regarding F.S. 316.305, the statute which bars wireless communication devices while driving. The statute, which expressly aims to improve roadway safety and reduce injuries, death, property damage, health care costs and auto insurance rates, makes texting while driving a secondary offense. That means officers can’t stop an offending driver unless he or she has committed another infraction.

More importantly, the law does not stop drivers from talking on their cell phones, and there is a great deal of evidence showing that engaging on a cell phone – even a hands-free device –is a dangerous form of distraction.

No state bans all cell phone use for all drivers, but 37 states do ban cell phone use by novice or teen drivers, and 20 states plus D.C. bar cell phone use for school bus drivers.

Cell Phones as Distraction

Americans’ attentions are increasingly divided. While cell phone use certainly isn’t the only form of distraction drivers face (children, pets, music, eating, putting on makeup, etc.), it’s one of the most common. This is especially true because there is growing expectation that people will always be connected – whether age 16 or 66.

The U.S. Department of Transportation estimates 3,155 people were killed in 2013 in distracted-driving crashes. The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety puts that figure at closer to 5,000. The National Safety Council contends these are both low estimates because involvement of cell phones in crashes is vastly underreported.

In an analysis of date from 2009 to 2011, the NSC reviewed 180 cases where it was suspected cell phone use may have been a factor in causing the wreck. Of those cases, only 52 percent were coded in the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) as involving cell phones. What’s more, even when drivers confessed to using their cell phones just prior to the crash, only 50 percent of those cell phone car accident cases were coded by federal authorities as such.

That tells our Fort Lauderdale lawyers the problem is even bigger than we realize.

In 2013, the NHTSA launched a study to examine the impact of both hand-held and hands-free cell phone use on driving performance. This is important because there is an erroneous belief that cell phones – particularly those that are hands-free – are somehow safer.

Researchers followed 204 drivers each day for a full month. Only drivers who conceded talking on their cell phone while driving at least once daily were recruited.

They found drivers were on their phone about 10 percent of the time the vehicle was being operated. Ten percent of all text messages and 30 percent of all calls occurred while the vehicle was in motion. Study authors learned “sub tasks” of talking on one’s cell phone – i.e., reaching for the phone, dialing a number, tapping in the navigation – were associated with the largest chunk of eyes-off-the-road time.

Meanwhile, the NSC compiled a list of 30 other studies that outline why talking on a cell phone – even with a hands-free device – is no safer than texting. In report after report, it was determined drivers can be talking on a cell phone and “looking” through the windshield, yet not really “seeing” what is around them. Countless reports of cell phone car accidents include drivers who were talking on their phones, looking straight ahead and yet failed to yield to pedestrians, bicyclists and other vehicles – with tragic consequences.

The reason is because driving and talking are both “thinking” tasks, which means both can’t be done well at the same time. When a person is engaged in a conversation, they are more likely to compartmentalize the task of driving as secondary, even though it should be their only focus.

Teenage Drivers and Cell Phones

While there is no such things as safely engaging in distraction behind the wheel, our lawyers do know some groups are more at-risk for danger.

The AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety found that while 80 percent of people believe cell phone use behind the wheel is perilous, nearly 70 percent between the ages of 18 and 64 admitted to talking on their phone while driving in the last 30 days. Nearly a third admitted to sending and receiving text messages while operating a motor vehicle.

High school students and young drivers fared the worst. Half of all 16-year-olds admitted to texting or e-mailing while driving.

In fact, a recent comprehensive study of more than 2,000 teen drivers revealed teen drivers were distracted 25 percent of the time they were driving, with electronic devices – including cell phones – accounting for the lion’s share of attention-grabbers. The naturalistic evidence suggested 60 percent of all teens involved in crashes were distracted moments before impact.

Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara understands that negligence cases arising out of distracted driving are often more challenging that drunk driving cases because at-fault motorists tend not to admit guilt, and there is no comparative physiological proof of distraction the way there is for driving under the influence. However, with a thorough pre-trial investigation, we can often make a strong case where such activity is suspected.

Contact Fort Lauderdale Injury Lawyer Richard Ansara at The Ansara Law Firm, by calling (954) 761-4011 for a free consultation.

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