Texting While Driving in Florida: Dangerous and Against the Law!
The Florida ban on texting while driving law is found at Florida Statute §316.305. Incredibly, although everyone knows it’s a careless and dangerous practice, it is still only a secondary offense (F.S. 316.305(1)(d)). This means to be cited (receive a ticket) for texting while driving (TWD), a motor-vehicle operator must be detained (pulled over or stopped) for another type of violation (i.e., speeding, running a red light, taillight out, etc.) (F.S. 316.305(5)).
Evidence of texting will be admissible in criminal and civil proceedings where the driver that was texting while driving cased a crash involving death or personal injury. In those cases, cell phone bills or other written evidence of TWD will be admissible in Court. (F.S. 316.305(7)(c)).
TWD is distracted driving. The U.S. Department of Transportation has recognized that such a major problem exists with distracted driving that they have funded an education campaign known as www.Distraction.gov. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has instituted an extensive education effort aimed at young drivers using powerful YouTube videos that graphically depict the danger of texting behind the wheel. The statistics are overwhelming. The National Safety Counsel reports that 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by TWD. The list goes on and on. More incredible is the fact that TWD makes you 23 times more likely to crash – the same as driving after 4 beers! Despite this indisputable evidence, 800,000 drivers are doing it at any given time across the country.
Certainly, no one can argue that TWD is negligent. Florida courts are starting to hold that it may even rise to the level of recklessness (an intentional act like driving while intoxicated). This clear and obvious danger of TWD has led to Plaintiffs (people bringing lawsuits) to seek punitive damages under Florida Statutes §768.72 (1) and (2). To make a claim for punitive damages against a driver that has caused personal injury or death due to a crash while texting, an injured party needs to prove gross negligence that indicates a wanton disregard for the rights of others. (As early as 2011, Florida courts began allowing punitive damage claims against a Defendant whose conduct (TWD) caused a car crash resulting in death (Margaret S. Caskey, et. al. v. Astellas Pharma US, Inc., et. al., Collier County Case No. 112010 CA 0005820001XX (Fla. Collier Cir. Ct. 2011). It should be noted that regular insurance policies do not provide coverage for these damages. Since 2011, discovery of electronic records and data has become increasingly more sophisticated in criminal and civil cases and text message histories are readily obtainable. This evidentiary proof will continue to become more accessible and verifiable in injury and death cases. Phone records, billing records, and screen shots are the proverbial “smoking gun” in modern distracted driving cases.
Jeffrey R. Davis, P.A. is a Florida injury law firm that has more than 30 years’ experience in representing victims of personal injury and wrongful death. We handle cases throughout Florida involving texting while driving and distracted driving claims. Please contact us for a free case evaluation.