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Studies Fail to Influence Distracted Driving Regulations in Florida to Reduce Car Accidents in Fort Myers and Elsewhere

As we recently discussed on our Florida Injury Lawyers Blog, Florida is one of the few states left that still has no law regulating the distractions of drivers on our roadways. Drivers of all ages on our roadways are allowed to talk on their cell phone, send text messages, surf the web and do just about anything else. These distractions are a primary cause in a number of car accidents in Fort Myers, Naples, Bonita, Cape Coral and elsewhere in Southwest Florida.
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A recent study, conducted by the U.S. Department of Transportation, reports that areas in our country that enforce laws prohibiting such driving behaviors actually experience a significant reduction in roadway dangers. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood recently announced that Syracuse, New York, and Hartford, Connecticut were the most recent states to experience these reductions after the execution of two pilot projects used to measure the effects of increased law enforcement coupled with high-profile public education campaigns.

Our Fort Myers car accident attorneys understand the dangers that accompany distracted driving habits. In 2009 alone, there were nearly 5,500 traffic deaths because of accidents that involved a distracted driver. Another 500,000 people were injured in these incidents. Distracted driving fatalities accounted for nearly 20 percent of all traffic fatalities during that year. While 34 states, the District of Columbia, and Guam already enforce texting bans and nine states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have prohibited all hand-held cell phone use while driving, Florida has yet to make its first move to protect motorists from these preventable accidents.

“These findings show that strong laws, combined with highly-visible police enforcement, can significantly reduce dangerous texting and cell phone use behind the wheel,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. “Based on these results, it is crystal clear that those who try to minimize this dangerous behavior are making a serious error in judgment, especially when half a million people are injured and thousands more are killed in distracted driving accidents.”

Each pilot program was funded by $200,000 in federal funds and $100,000 from the state. Each area examined whether increased police enforcement along with paid advertising and news media coverage had the ability to reduce distracted driving. Both pilot efforts used “Phone in One Hand, Ticket in the Other” as the media campaign theme. This media theme was similarly structured to the highly-successful national seat belt campaign, “Click It or Ticket.”

The studies concluded:

-Syracuse, New York witnessed a decrease in handheld cell phone use and texting behind the wheel by a third. This area credits high-visibility enforcement for the reduction.

-Hartford, Connecticut witnessed nearly a 60 percent reduction in handheld use. Texting by drivers reportedly dropped by nearly 75 percent.

“The success of these pilot programs clearly show that combining strong laws with strong enforcement can bring about a sea change in public attitudes and behavior,” said NHTSA Administrator David Strickland. “We applaud the work of the men and women of the Syracuse and Hartford police forces, and call on state legislatures, law enforcement and safety advocates across the nation to follow their lead.”

Florida may one day be able to experience the same benefits of safer roads if our state decides to enact a law to regulate the distracting driving habits of motorists. Until then, safe driving habits are the sole responsibility of the individual driver. Be safe, be responsible and be focused.

Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Attorneys for the Injured, is a law firm committed to representing car accident victims throughout South Florida, including Naples, Fort Myers, Sebring and Cape Coral. Call for a free and confidential appointment at 1-800-283-2900.

More Blog Entries:

New Vehicle Technology — Contributing to Car Accidents in Fort Myers and Elsewhere?
July 24, 2011
Still Allowing Distracted Driving Accidents in Florida – One of the Last States to Regulate Cell Phone Use by Drivers
July 15, 2011