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Fort Lauderdale injury attorneys note federal distracted driving summit will put Florida officials in the hot seat

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced it will hold a second distracted driving summit on Sept. 21, as it continues to highlight the problem and looks for ways to combat it, the Washington Post reported.

The news is significant for a number of reasons, not the least of which is Florida’s utter failure to act. As our Fort Lauderdale injury lawyers reported earlier this month, the blame for the lack of a distracted driving law in Florida rests squarely on Tallahassee politicians. Not only is Florida one of just a few states that has not outlawed texting while driving, but our lawmakers have actually passed a law forbidding local governments from doing their work for them.

The result is a state full of visitors, vacationers, senior drivers and drivers talking on their cell phones and text messaging. When the federal accident statistics are released in the coming weeks, it will be no coincidence that Florida is among the states with the highest number of fatal accidents in the nation.

We suspect the government is very close to linking the passage of text-messaging bans to federal highway funding — it is the same tactic it has used to bring states into nationwide compliance with drunk driving and seat belt enforcement. While the safety of voters has not prompted the state legislature to act, we think the likelihood of losing millions of highway safety dollars will make passing a distracted driving law a priority.

Especially since there appears to be very little money lining up on the other side of the argument. The New York Times reports that a Washington law firm has withdrawn plans to create a lobbying group of cell phone and automakers to fight distracted driving laws. The plan was hammered earlier this week in public remarks by Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. While cell phone makers have been a little slow to rise to the issue, they have at least quit marketing their products as “car phones.”

The Washington summit will gather researchers, law enforcement officers, transportation officials, safety advocates, industry representatives and victims of distracted driving crashes. Nationwide, an estimated 6,000 people are killed and more than 500,000 are injured each year in accidents caused by distracted driving, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

“Working together, we can put an end to the thousands of needless deaths and injuries caused by distracted driving each year,” said Secretary LaHood. “By getting the best minds together, I believe we can figure out how to get people to put down their phones and pay attention to the road.”

Freeman & Mallard is a personal injury and wrongful death law firm dedicated to helping motorists who have been injured in Fort Lauderdale, West Palm Beach and the Port St. Lucie/Fort Pierce areas. Call today for a free consultation. 1-800-529-2368.

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