Distracted Driving Lawyer in Tampa, FL
If you were hurt in a distracted driving accident in Tampa, you have first-hand knowledge of how these collisions can disrupt your life and livelihood. You’re injured. You may not know if you will make a full recovery. At the same time, you’re accumulating medical bills and missing out on the income you need to pay them.
Fortunately, there are ways to recover compensation for your accident-related losses in Florida. With the help of a qualified distracted driving accident lawyer, you can file a claim to hold the at-fault driver financially liable for his or her actions.
Reach out to the attorneys at Brooks Law Group. Our accomplished lawyers have more than 25 years of experience fighting for injured people in Tampa and the surrounding Florida communities. Getting justice is our goal, and we’re good at what we do.
Call or contact us today for a free consultation.
What Is Distracted Driving?
Distracted driving is operating a motor vehicle while engaged in any activity that keeps you from being focused on safe and attentive driving. Drivers who are distracted behind the wheel are significantly more likely to overlook potential road hazards and make driving errors that contribute to motor vehicle collisions.
Neuroscientists at the Cleveland Clinic say our brains just aren’t wired to pay attention to more than one thing at a time. When we try to focus on two tasks at once, it compromises our ability to do either task well. This means it’s really not possible to drive safely unless you are completely focused on the road.
The CDC notes that there are three main categories of distractions, which include:
- Visual distractions: A visual distraction is anything that takes your eyes away from the road while you’re driving. Visual distractions are particularly dangerous because driving is a very visual activity. Drivers need to scan the road constantly for potential hazards, other motorists, and relevant traffic signage. Common visual distractions include cell phones, GPS devices, vehicle control knobs, and even external phenomena such as billboard advertisements or roadside accidents. Any of these distractions have the potential to make a driver’s eyes wander away from the road ahead, increasing the risk of a crash.
- Manual distractions: A manual distraction is anything that causes a driver to remove one or both hands from the steering wheel while the vehicle is in motion. Although there is no one “correct” way to steer a car, the National Highway Safety Traffic Administration (NHTSA) says the most effective way to control your steering input is to keep two hands on the wheel. Examples of manual distractions include handling food or drinks, helping other passengers with safety restraints, smoking, personal grooming, changing clothes, and adjusting vehicle controls. Any manual distraction can prevent a driver from steering correctly or reacting in time to avoid collisions.
- Cognitive distractions: A cognitive distraction is not easily spotted. Cognitive distractions include anything that takes a driver’s mind and attention away from the road. These distractions are deceptively dangerous because drivers who have a full view of their surroundings and both hands on the wheel can still be distracted enough to cause serious traffic accidents. Common types of cognitive distractions include phone conversations, conversations with other vehicle occupants, daydreaming, and loud music. The National Safety Council notes that even hands-free devices, which are supposedly safer, present dangerous cognitive distractions that increase the likelihood of a crash.
Common Types of Distracted Driving
Distracted driving is often associated with cell phone use. However, there are many different types of activities that involve manual, visual, and cognitive distractions.
Common types of distracted driving include:
- Texting: NHTSA calls texting “the most alarming distraction” because it involves manual, visual, and cognitive distractions all at once. Text messages require drivers to visually scan their phone screens, cognitively evaluate the messages that are received or sent, and manually input text or phone commands when they respond. The average text message takes a driver’s eyes off of the road for about five seconds, which is long enough to drive the entire length of a football field while traveling at just 55 miles per hour. If you consider how dangerous it would be to drive that far with your eyes closed, it’s easy to understand why texting while driving is a bad idea.
- Talking on the phone: Using the phone to chat, even with a hands-free device, is still distracting. Phone conversations require significant cognitive attention and may also lead drivers to fuss with touchscreen prompts or buttons that create additional manual distractions. Interacting with passengers: Drivers who help children with their safety belts or engage in animated conversations with passengers may engage in all three categories of driver distractions. Turning away from the road to address a passenger is dangerous, even if it’s only for a split second.
- Reaching for objects inside the vehicle: This type of distraction can involve retrieving fallen objects, reaching for a drink, or entering commands into electronic devices. Drivers who reach for objects inside their vehicles take their hands away from the wheel and may be cognitively or visually distracted as well, increasing the probability of an accident.
- Eating and drinking: Many drivers assume there’s no harm in taking the occasional sip of coffee or holding a to-go sandwich in one hand while driving. However, eating or drinking behind the wheel is a manual distraction that can leave drivers with less time to react to or steer clear of potential road hazards.
- Personal grooming: Most cars come equipped with vanity mirrors, which are handy for quick touch-ups on the go. However, drivers who use these mirrors to style their hair or apply makeup behind the wheel are more likely to be involved in accidents as a result of visual and manual distractions.
Distracted Driving Accident Statistics in Tampa
Distracted driving is a serious issue in the United States, especially in Tampa and throughout the Sunshine State. According to reports from The Sun Sentinel and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles:
- Florida drivers have been ranked the second-worst in the U.S. for distracted driving behaviors, coming in behind only Louisiana.
- Among Florida’s 401,867 accidents in a recent year, 160,463 involved a distracted driver. That’s roughly 40 percent of all car crashes in the state.
- Nearly 3,000 injuries from distracted driving crashes in Florida in a single year were classified as incapacitating. These are disabling injuries such as broken bones and amputations.
- More than 14,000 distracted driving accidents resulted in non-incapacitating injuries, such as visible injuries like bruises, abrasions, and limping.
- There were 32,081 crashes that resulted in possible injuries. These are injuries that are not visibly apparent, but may be suspected by responding law enforcement officers.
- 266 distracted driving crashes involved at least one fatality.
Distracted Driving Laws in Tampa
Like many states, distracted driving laws in Florida focus almost exclusively on texting while driving. Florida drivers have been prohibited from texting while driving since 2013, but until recently, texting while driving was considered only a secondary offense.
Police officers are not allowed to pull drivers over or issue tickets for secondary offenses. This means that in the past, officers could only detain or ticket texting drivers who were committing another primary offense, such as running a red light.
In July 2019, Florida decided to classify texting while driving as a primary offense. In October 2019, the state issued another law that prohibited drivers from using any handheld communication devices in school or work zones. By January 2020, police officers were able to detain and issue citations to drivers for texting behind the wheel.
The Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law does not apply to all drivers in all situations. For example, the following types of drivers and wireless communications are exempt from the ban:
- Drivers who perform official duties as operators of authorized emergency vehicles, including law enforcement officers, fire service professionals, and emergency medical services technicians
- Drivers who are reporting emergencies or suspicious activities to law enforcement agencies
- Drivers receiving messages containing safety information, traffic condition alerts, or information that is relevant to the operation or navigation of their vehicles
- Drivers who are communicating with wireless devices that do not require the manual input of multiple letters, numbers, or symbols
- Drivers who are communicating with wireless devices that do not require reading text-based messages
- Drivers of autonomous vehicles with automated driving features engaged
Non-exempt drivers who violate the ban on texting while driving can face long-term consequences. First-time violations can result in a $30 fine plus court costs, which can easily add up to more than $100. A second violation within five years of the first would result in a more substantial fine plus points against your driver’s license, which remain for three years.
Furthermore, inattentive drivers who cause accidents can also be held civilly liable by anyone who is hurt by their actions. At Brooks Law Group, our distracted driving accident lawyers can help you file a civil claim for compensation against the negligent driver.
How to Prove a Driver Was Texting
If you were involved in an accident with a driver who was texting behind the wheel, you’ll need to be able to prove that driver was negligent to recover compensation for your accident-related losses. Unfortunately, it’s much more difficult to prove that a driver was texting just before an accident occurred than it is to prove a negligent action like drunk driving.
Under Florida law, police officers are prohibited from confiscating or otherwise accessing drivers’ cell phones without a warrant unless they were involved in a crash that resulted in death or serious injury. This means that even if an officer personally witnessed a driver texting before an accident occurred, they have no way to prove their suspicions without a warrant or voluntary compliance on behalf of the driver.
Fortunately, there are several types of useful evidence that can help you prove a motorist contributed to an accident because they were texting while driving, such as:
- Driver cell phone records: Even though police officers are usually not allowed to access drivers’ cell phone records, an experienced attorney can help you file a petition to use the driver’s cell phone data in your case. These records can demonstrate exactly when a driver was texting, talking, or using their phone.
- Witness statements: Any other drivers, passengers, or pedestrians who witnessed the accident may be able to provide valuable statements to corroborate your claim. A witness can be a reliable and unbiased source who helps demonstrate that another driver was texting or otherwise distracted before a crash.
- Police officer testimony: Even if they can’t confiscate drivers’ phones without a warrant or significant probable cause, officers may be able to provide valuable testimony about whether they believe another driver was texting behind the wheel.
- Video footage: Video surveillance from nearby traffic or security cameras, dash cameras, or even cell phone recordings can show what happened in the moments before an accident. An attorney can help you request footage from the owner of a camera to obtain useful video evidence of a texting driver.
- Accident reconstruction: Specialists in accident reconstruction use clues from a crash scene to create a diagram of what happened during impact. These reconstructions can demonstrate that a driver was likely not paying attention to the road, which can be used to resolve disputes if questions arise regarding who was at fault.
How Can Brooks Law Group Help Me?
There’s never an excuse for distracted driving. At Brooks Law Group, we’ll take on your case and demand maximum compensation for your crash-related losses. Our distracted driving accident lawyers in Tampa, FL will craft a legal claim that stands up to challenges from insurance companies who will stop at nothing to pay you as little as possible.
Justice is only a phone call away. Call us now or fill out our online contact form.