Causes of car accidents, serious injury targeted by Florida lawmakers

Lawmakers will tackle tougher seat belt enforcement and distracted-driving regulations as part of a 2009 agenda aimed at reducing car accidents on Florida roads.

Florida accident attorneys and the staff at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, handle hundreds of cases in which car accidents are caused by distracted drivers or in which unbelted motorists are seriously injured or killed in a collision.

The American Automobile Association (AAA) is pushing a measure that would make Florida’s safety belt law a primary offense and permit traffic stops. Currently, motorists can only be cited for a seat belt violation if they have been pulled over for a traffic infraction.

Supporters of the measure estimate it would save 142 lives and prevent 2,019 injuries caused by Florida traffic accidents in the first year alone. The law also would make the state eligible for $46.1 million in federal incentives.

The National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration reports the nationwide seat belt compliance rate sat at 82 percent in 2007. But state-by-state compliance varied widely, from 64 percent in New Hampshire to 98 percent in Hawaii. States with primary enforcement laws enjoyed greater compliance, according to the statistics.

Florida ranks right in the middle in terms of its compliance rate, which has increased this decade, from 69.5 percent in 2001 to 79.1 in 2007. Nationally, it ranks 26 of the 50 states.

Florida lawmakers also plan to tackle the issue of distracted drivers with a number of potential laws addressing everything from cellphone use by teen drivers to text messaging.

Jay Anderson, a retired Fort Myers-area paramedic and founder of Stay Alive … Just Drive supports a ban on the use of cellphones and text messaging by all drivers. Known as Heather’s Law, the proposal is named for a Florida girl killed in a 10-car pileup caused by a truck driver who was allegedly text messaging.

If adopted, Anderson said Florida would join five other states that ban cell phone use by drivers, including New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, California and Washington, D.C.

In addition to these issues, AAA is supporting measures to regulate unnecessary towing regulations and will monitor bills related to transportation, toll roads, child restraints, driver education, red light cameras and accident taxes.

Anyone interested in getting involved in these issues can click here to sign up for AAA’s Action e-list.

There are certain things you can do to help protect your rights in the unfortunate event that you or a loved one are injured or killed in a traffic accident. The car accident attorneys and motorcycle accident lawyers at Associates and Bruce L. Scheiner, Personal Injury Lawyers, offer free appointments to discuss your rights at any of the firm’s offices located throughout Southwest Florida, including Fort Myers, Naples, Cape Coral, Arcadia, Port Charlotte, Sebring and Venice.

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