Articles Tagged with “distracted driving laws”

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004-TextingLawA 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.

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According to Broward Sheriff’s Office, a bicyclist was killed today after he was hit by a cement truck near Davie Boulevard. The authorities have not revealed the circumstances of this latest fatal bicyclist accident, but one can reasonably suspect that the truck driver did not see the bicyclist, or did not see the bicyclist with enough time to avoid fatally striking the victim.

Last year, Leesfield Scolaro began its “Share the Road” campaign, by promoting the same message on its U.S.1 signage as illustrated below. This campaign was born out of the necessary collective realization that Florida is the most lethal state in the nation for bicyclists. South Florida alone has reported over 2500 bicyclist accidents in 2014. A trend that is continually increasing by all measures. Florida leads the nation in fatalities with 119 in 2014, which rounds up the number of bicyclists killed on the road to over 550 between 2010 and 2014.

SHARE THE ROAD.jpgSHARE THE ROAD 04.jpgThis epidemic has not been curbed by community leaders, politics, policies, or fines and criminal penalties. If a change does come in the future, it will have to be triggered by a collective behavior modification of drivers throughout the entire state of Florida. The tragedy that occurred today is even more personal to Leesfield Scolaro because it is eerily similar to a recent case where friends of members of our lawfirm were involved in a bicycle accident with a truck. In that case, the incident was caused by a distracted truck driver who decided to take his eyes off the road to adjust his GPS and failed to avoid two bicyclists whom he struck with incredible force and violence that it permanently changed two innocent lives.

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In less than 24 hours, South Florida roadways have witnesses four motor vehicle accidents which caused the death of six people. While the number of traffic accident fatalities is in somewhat decline in the State overall, last weekend’s events are a brutal reminder that traffic safety remains the greatest cause for unnatural deaths in Florida.

Ambulance_iStock_000011321000Medium.jpgIn Miami Beach, a woman was killed while crossing the street at Rue Granville and Normandy Drive. She was struck by a car on Sunday night and was emergently transported to the hospital. She succumbed to her serious injures at the hospital.

Earlier that day, two women crossing Alligator Alley were killed when they were struck by an SUV near mile marker 63. According to the driver of the vehicle who struck them, the police said the deceased were walking along the median of Alligator Alley and began crossing the road in the direction of their car that was parked in a rest area along the road. The driver of the SUV was unable to avoid them and after hitting the windshield, they both died at the scene.

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On April 8, 2013, the Florida Judiciary Committee approved by unanimous vote a bill (SB 52) that would ban texting while driving statewide for the first time in Florida. The bill cleared The Senate Transportation Committee last February, cleared the Senate Communications, Energy, and Public Utilities Committee in March and this week cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill can now be taken to Florida’s Senators for a final vote.

If the bill passes the Senate and the House, this will mark the first time that a ban on texting while driving becomes in effect (on October 1, 2013) after several years of futile attempts to ban texting behind the wheel.

While any ban on texting and driving is a step in the right direction, the proposed law is so meaningless in its reach that it will sadly create absolutely no incentive or deterring effects to dissuade drivers to stop texting while driving throughout the State.

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ira-leesfield.jpgTEXTING AND DRIVING Make the right call on texting and driving

By Ira H. Leesfield

After years of false stops and starts, a bill to curb texting while driving is finally building momentum in the Florida House. The current bill would impose a $30 fine for anyone texting while driving, and a $60 fine for doing so again within the same five-year period. Texting would still be allowed when stopped or at a red light.

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Last week we reported on the ongoing criminal trial of Aaron Deveau in Massachusetts. Today, the 18-year-old was found guilty of vehicular homicide, and causing a fatal traffic accident while texting on his cell phone. This landmark case is the first time in the state of Massachusetts that such charges have resulted in a conviction. Found guilty, Deveau was sentenced to 2 1/2 years behind bars, and will serve one additional year in jail.

deveau_accident.jpgOn the day of the accident, the teenager had sent and received 193 text messages. Deveau faced a maximum sentence of four years. He was also sentenced to 40 hours of community service, as well as having to surrender his driver’s license for 15 years.

After the accident, Deveau deleted several text messages from his phone, but investigators were able to ascertain that the teenager was driving and texting at the same time through their forensic research team.

This tragic incident caused the death of 55-year-old Donald Bowley Jr., who left 3 children behind, and catastrophic injuries to the two other occupants in Bowley’s vehicle.

deveau trial.jpgIn convicting Deveau, the State of Massachusetts has made an example of this case for all the citizens of Massachusetts who continue to text while driving, even though it has been a violation of the laws of Massachusetts since the year 2010. Even though Deveau showed remorse and regret when he said in open court that he wished he could “take it all back”, before apologizing the to Bowley family, District Court Judge Stephen Abany realized that this case needed an exemplary sentencing.

When sentencing Deveau, Judge Abany said that deterrence “really seems to come to play in this case,” and “[p]eople really want to be safe on the highways.” People need to “keep their eyes on the road, keep their eyes on the road,” he added.
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Aaron Deveau is currently on trial, facing criminal charges including motor vehicle homicide by negligent operation, negligent operation of a motor vehicle, being an operator under 18 using a mobile phone, being an operator reading or sending an electronic message, driving over marked lanes, and two counts of negligent operation and injury from mobile phone use.

This Massachusetts criminal case could be the first landmark case in the controversial topic of texting while driving, after the 17 year-old-teenager, Deveau, collided head-on with a pickup truck on Feb. 20, 2011, and killing 55-year-old Donald Bowley.

Had this accident occurred in Florida, Aaron Deveau would be freely walking down the streets of the Sunshine State with the comforting knowledge that he will never face criminal charges. The victim’s family on the other hand would only have a civil remedy against the negligent teenager.

In 2010 the state of Massachusetts has passed a law banning the use of mobile phones while operating a motor vehicle. A contrario, Florida is one of only six states in the country which continuously refuses to ban the practice of texting and driving. In fact, this year marked the 7th year in a row that the Florida legislature could have voted on a total or partial ban of the use of handheld mobile phones while driving and adjourned without producing a single distracted driving law.

Map of USA - Texting and Driving Ban.jpg

Image above courtesy of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety

Ira H. Leesfield, as Senior Managing Partner of Leesfield Scolaro, has continuously been an advocate in favor of a total ban of the use of mobile phones when driving a motor vehicle. Recently, Ira Leesfield highlighted the main concerns and legal theories under which plaintiffs could attempt bringing civil cases against negligent drivers who caused injuries while using their cell phone: Driving + Cell Phones = Bad Call.

In an article published in the Miami Herald, Texting and driving a costly business risk, Ira Leesfield warned the corporate world of the dangers of having employees driving and using their cell phones. In 2007, an article published in the American Bar Association’s The Brief, Tort Trial & Insurance Practice Section, in which Ira Leesfield analyzes and discusses remedies and tactics for handling motor vehicle collision cases arising from cell phone use and distractions. This article can be downloaded here.
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