A new study revealed that 92% of motorists use their phone while operating their vehicle. That reality must sink in. Whether you are in traffic, stopped at a red light, making 60mph on the highway, a pedestrian walking across an intersection, a bicyclist on a Sunday morning run, or in an Uber, understand that you are simply 100% at risk of injury. More and more, motorists see being in a moving car as being in a moving elevator: an opportunity to check emails, respond to texts, send a snap, read a story on Facebook, take a selfie to post on Instagram. The obvious difference is one is potentially deadly. This reality will remain true until we all operate self-driving vehicles.
For the last time, Floridians are undeniably on notice: Florida is the second-worst state for distracted driving. The Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ statistics show that a distracted driving-related accident will occur every 10-12 minutes in Florida. That adds up to almost 50,000 crashes involving distracted-driving, and the consequences are life-altering, causing 3,500 catastrophic injuries and 233 deaths in 2016.
Just a few days ago, Ira H. Leesfield and Adam Rose published an op-ed titled “Texting while driving is nothing to ‘LOL’ about” in the Daily Business Review stressing the urgency of public officials to act before more lives are lost and affected by this behavioral epidemic.
Today, Florida law continues to treat cell phone use while driving as a secondary offense. In their article, Leesfield and Rose explain that a drunk driver is less likely to cause an accident than a phone user. A person will take their eyes off the road for 4.6 seconds on average when using their phone while a drunk driver will “only” have decreased reactionary time. What is worse? A distracted driver will never even see the victim before they crash into them because their eyes are transfixed on their 7 square inch screen instead of the road.
In the last 10 years, studies, statistics, and articles have shed a brighter and brighter light on the dangers of distracted driving and the need for public officials to get ahead of this societal problem. In 2017, no one can afford nor can excuse the status quo. This Damocles sword is a well-known and deadly threat that must be addressed, not by all, but by the few who can make a difference for the rest of us who can become another statistic each and every time we get on the road.
Leesfield Scolaro has been at the forefront of this problem, pushing for legislation to impose a ban on hand-held cell phone use while driving and making it a primary law. Not only that, legislators must increase the mandatory penalties for those found guilty of driving while using their cell phones to include (1) a minimum 6-month probation for the first offense and mandatory jail time for the second offense; (2) at least a $500 fine, and (3) a minimum of 6-month to a year of suspended license. Admittedly these are inconvenient and drastic measures, but they are needed to exhort drastic social changes.