Articles Tagged with “texting and driving”

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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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On October 1, 2013, the first law banning texting while driving comes into effect in the State of Florida. This law is a half step in the right direction, but a half step nevertheless.

crphoto 3_resize.jpgThe Florida legislator has advocated for a ban on cell phone use while driving for several years. The best compromise Tallahassee was able to reach has essentially pulled the teeth of the new law. We described in detail the shortcomings of the new piece of legislation in our previous articles on the topic:

Florida’s ban on texting while driving – A toothless law in need of more bite!

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On May 15, 2013, County employee Alfredo Menendez was placed on leave for ramming his county truck into several stopped vehicle, causing a pileup accident at the intersection of Flagler and Lejeune Road in Miami. According to reports in the local media, witnesses saw the county truck run a red light and crash into a vehicle before swerving off the road and slam into a bus bench on Lejeune Road. The violence of the crash and the speed at which the county truck is alleged to have been traveling at the time caused a chain reaction of collisions which involved a total of seven vehicles.

Paramedics confirmed that three people were waiting at the bus stop at the time of the crash. Ambulances and firefighters were dispatched to the scene immediately. In all, five people – including the county truck driver – were transported to Jackson Memorial Hospital. One victim, 80-year-old Transito Lopez, reportedly lost a leg in the accident. His family has yet to visit with their relative who is said to be in critical condition and in a coma.

While the police investigation is still ongoing, several witnesses have come forward and shared what they saw. One person whose vehicle was involved and damaged in this accident said that the driver was not paying attention: “Very simple, that truck was on the phone, it was obvious he didn’t see the red light. How can you be going 60 miles 300 yards before a red light.”

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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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Texting and driving has been and continues to be one of the leading causes of fatal car accidents in the State of Florida. Easily explaining the reasons for the situation is the ever standstill of the Florida legislator on this issue. For several years Ira Leesfield and the personal injury lawyers at Leesfield Scolaro have argued in favor of, and pushed legislators to pass a ban on texting while driving. Last week, despite a House and Senate either ignoring the reality of distracted driving, or incapable of coming to a sensible piece of legislation, a Broward County Judge allowed punitive damages in a civil negligence lawsuit for the first time in the State of Florida.

cell-phone-car.jpgWe have reported multiple times in the Florida Injury Lawyer Blawg the calamitous reality in Florida. As explained in our recent post “Florida still refuses to ban texting while driving“, Florida remains one of only six states without any limitations on cell phone use while driving. Every other State has either a total ban or a partial ban on texting and driving.

Over the years, Ira Leesfield has been a spokesperson for greater safety and common sense in the law. His experience fighting for the rights of innocent victims injured by the negligence of others has flourished in the passage of many important laws during his career as a personal injury attorney in Miami, Key West, throughout the State of Florida and the rest of the nation.

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Last month, 25-year-old Alicia Westgate killed Richard Webb, an avid 68-year-old bicyclist. New York prosecutors charged Westgate with reckless operation, use of a portable device for texting and failure to use due care. The defendant will answer those charges in Newfane Town Court on August 14.

The state of New York is one of the 38 states that currently have a ban on texting while driving. Last month, we reported on a landmark case in the Massachusetts, where a young man was convicted for 2.5 years in jail for texting while driving and killing a husband and father. Westgate is facing a similar road in her upcoming criminal trial (unless she pleads guilty) if the evidence reveals that she was indeed texting at the time the incident took place.

Studies on the dangers of texting while driving continue to provide more evidence that drivers should not be using their hand-held devices to text. Recently, CNN Anderson Cooper reported on a new study below:

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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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