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New Legislation Slated to Reduce Distracted Driving Accidents in Fort Lauderdale, Nationwide

Florida drivers, your days of using a handheld cell phone while driving may soon be numbered. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. has proposed a House bill that would bring under federal control driving and cell phone usage, according to an article in Auto Trends Magazine.

Our West Palm Beach injury lawyers know that cell phone use is one of the leading causes of distracted driving accidents in Fort Lauderdale and elsewhere. We are aware that in 2009 the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reported almost 5,500 people were killed in crashes caused by distracted driving.

Individual states currently mange their own cell phone usage laws. If the bill passes the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) would be tasked with making a national standard, to ban cell phone use while driving. Drivers calling for help in an emergency situation would be the only exception.

“Driving while making a phone call, texting or using apps can be as dangerous as driving drunk, and much more common,” Rep. McCarthy said. “With some basic commonsense rules that are already in place in some parts of the country, we can reduce injuries and save lives in America.”

Some exclusions are included in the proposed legislation. Drivers could still use vehicle-integrated and voice-operated devices and GPS systems that are voice-operated. It is recognized that many of today’s vehicles have the technology for hands-free cell phone use.

But, cognitive distractions still exist with hands-free devices. If passed, the bill would require the DOT to do a distracted driving study with an emphasis on cognitive distraction particularly as it relates to young or inexperienced drivers. DOT, within two years of the study, would have to present their findings to Congress, give suggestions for updating the minimum distracted driving exclusions and penalties states must observe. After all that, states would be allowed two years to abide by the law or face a reduction in federal highway funding of 25 percent.

Currently, there are a wide variety of state laws on preventing distracted driving. Florida doesn’t have any restrictions at all regarding cell phone use while driving. But in Illinois there is a ban on texting for all drivers; all cell phone use is prohibited for bus drivers and all drivers under 19-years-old; and cell phones can’t be used while driving in school and construction zones.

Other distractions that can lead to crashes:
-Talking with passengers: Keep conversations to a minimum so you stay focused on driving
-Changing the radio station or adjusting temperature control: Wait to do this when you are stopped or ask your passengers to do this.
-Eating or drinking: Give yourself plenty of time to finish your food and beverage.

If you or someone you know has been injured in a distraction-related accident, contact the experienced team of injury lawyers at Freeman, Mallard, Sharp & Gonzalez, LLC for a free no-obligation appointment. Our offices are located in West Palm Beach, Margate, Hollywood, Miami and Port St. Lucie so call 1-800-561-7777 to discuss your case today.

Additional Resources:

Safe Drivers Act of 2011 Introduced to Congress, by Matt Keegan, Auto Trends Magazine

New Consumer Report Flags Tire Pressure as Cause of Car Accidents in West Palm and Elsewhere, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog June 9, 2011

Small Children at Risk of Severe Injury in Fort Pierce Bicycle Accidents, South Florida Injury Lawyers Blog June 26, 2011

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