On Monday, October 4, a new policy went into effect that bans the use of hand-held cell phones by Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) troopers while they are driving. The measure is designed to keep roads safer, as cell phone use contributes to distracted driving. The ban affects Florida’s 1,650 troopers, and will still be allowed to use a hands-free device.
The Florida Sun-Sentinel quotes a criminal justice professor as saying that personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits, filed against police agencies after fatal car chases, have also encouraged the emphasis on safety.
Florida still has no ban on the use of cell phones by drivers of passenger vehicles. Eight states, including New York, and California, do have bans on cell phone use while behind the wheel.
The GPS device must also be in voice mode only, or troopers must pull over to program a GPS.
Local police agencies in both Broward and Palm Beach counties are considering enacting a ban similar to the one enacted by the FHP.
Distracted Driving in Florida
Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute studied distracted driving and found for passenger vehicles:
- Dialing a cell phone made the risk of crash or near-crash event 2.8 times as high as non-distracted driving;
- Talking or listening to a cell phone made the risk of crash or near-crash event 1.3 times as high as non-distracted driving; and
- Reaching for an object such as an electronic device made the risk of crash or near-crash event 1.4 times as high as non-distracted driving.
Farah & Farah remind readers that sending a text message increases the risk of distracted driving over 20 times. VTTI found the driver of a passenger vehicle texting a message an average of 4.6 seconds while driving at 55 mph can cover the length of a football field without looking.
Almost every week we report on drivers who run into the rear of another vehicle without applying the brakes. One of the first things a Florida car accident attorney will look into is whether a driver was using his or her cell phone at the time of the crash. If so, they could be named the at-fault party who is responsible for the cost of injuries, hospitalization, lost wages, and pain and suffering.