At any given moment, five percent of motorists in the U.S. are holding a cell phone to their ears. During daylight hours, the U.S. Department of Transportation reports, an estimated nine percent of motorists are using their phone, whether hand-held or hands-free. Distracted driving clearly is a serious problem.
According to the National Occupant Protection Use Survey (NOPUS), released earlier this year, a growing number of states restrict cell phone use by drivers. But this does not mean drivers are putting their phones down. For many, laws like those in Florida have only forced them to be more covert in their phone use while driving, which further increases their distraction and the risk of causing a crash.
How Common is Distracted Driving?
It is difficult to determine how frequently distracted driving is involved in accidents. For distraction to be noted on a police report, the investigating officer must know the driver was distracted at the time of the crash. Often, this knowledge is only obtained when a driver admits to being distracted – and drivers may be hesitant to provide this information.
The NOPUS uses randomly selected sites on U.S. roads, with data-gatherers making visual observations on the prevalence of distraction. The researchers found in 2012 that 1.5 percent of drivers were visibly manipulating a hand-held device while driving. This is up slightly from 1.3 percent in 2011.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that 10 percent of all drivers under age 20 involved in deadly car accidents were distracted at the time of the crash. The agency also reports that 20 percent of teens and 10 percent of parents admit to having extended conversations via text message while driving.
What’s Being Done in Florida to Prevent Distracted Driving?
Florida is one of several states that has enacted one or more distracted driving laws in recent years to reduce the occurrence of distracted driving accidents. But Florida’s law is far from the strictest.
In Florida, texting while driving is illegal. However, it is not illegal to make and receive phone calls at the wheel. In some other states, such as New York and California, all hand-held devices are banned for drivers.
According to Florida’s Department of Transportation (FDOT), a web-based survey in 2010 revealed that 64 percent of drivers believed that distracted driving was the primary traffic safety problem facing Florida. Obviously, it’s a problem that citizens are concerned about. However, the FDOT reports that there are no grant funds set aside at this time for combating distracted driving.
Regardless, FDOT officials are making an effort to reduce these accidents across the state, including:
- Increasing distracted driving awareness and prevention among the public
- Encouraging employers and entities to adopt distracted driving policies
- Supporting legislation to enhance distracted driving laws
- Increasing knowledge among law enforcement officers on the investigation and data collection at distracted driving accident scenes
- Educating law enforcement and others on existing laws (like careless driving) that can be applied in distracted driving cases
- Launching distracted driving enforcement campaigns
- Supporting Graduated Driver’s License restrictions for teen drivers.
State and national officials can only do so much when it comes to making people put down their phones. Ultimately distracted driving prevention begins and ends with the drivers themselves.
So, what are you doing to reduce the risk of distracted driving accidents on Florida roads?