April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) and its division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) today launched a campaign aimed at educating Florida motorists on the importance of avoiding distracted driving, and is informing motorists of current laws against distracted driving. According to FLHSMV data, distracted driving crashes resulted in 333 fatalities in 2021 – the highest recorded in Florida in at least 8 years.
“When you get behind the wheel you only have one job, and that’s to ensure you and your passengers reach your destination safely,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Terry L. Rhodes. “More than 56,000 distracted driving crashes happened last year in Florida alone, and 75% of those crashes were caused by the driver being inattentive behind the wheel. Today and every day, pledge to drive how you would want others to drive around you and your loved ones – distraction free.”
On average, there were more than 1,000 distracted driving crashes every week across our state last year. For additional data information, visit FLHSMV’s Distracted Driving Crash Dashboard.
“It is extremely dangerous when you drive distracted on Florida roadways,” said Colonel Gene S. Spaulding, Director of the Florida Highway Patrol. “FHP wants to remind drivers to keep their hands on the wheel, eyes on the road, and their minds on driving. Focused attention on driving increases your reaction time to dangerous driving situations and keeps the ones you love safe as well as your fellow citizen.”
Safety Tips for Driving
- If you are expecting a text message or need to send one, pull over and park your car in a safe location. Once you are safely off the road and parked, it is safe to text.
- Designate your passenger as your “designated texter.” Allow them access to your phone to respond to calls or messages.
- Do not engage in social media scrolling or messaging while driving.
- Struggling to not text and drive? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your cell phone in the trunk, glove box, or back seat of your vehicle until you arrive at your destination.
Put Your Phone Away or Pay
- When you get behind the wheel, be an example to your family and friends by putting your phone away. Just because other people do it doesn’t mean texting and driving is “normal” behavior.
- In 48 states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, texting while driving is an illegal, ticketable offense. You could end up paying a hefty fine and get points on your license.
- If you see someone texting while driving, speak up. If your friend is texting while driving, tell them to stop. Listen to your passengers: If they catch you texting while driving and tell you to put your phone away, put it down.
“Driving a vehicle is a task that requires your full attention. No distraction is worth risking a life – whether it be your own or someone else’s,” said Florida Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary of Engineering and Operations Will Watts, P.E. “Don’t drive distracted and focus on the road – everything else can wait.”
“Distracted driving is anything that takes your attention away from the task of safe driving. Even the smallest tasks like talking or texting on your phone, eating and drinking, talking to people in your vehicle, fiddling with the stereo, entertainment or navigation system can result in a crash. Our sheriffs stand ready to enforce the Florida distracted driving laws to ensure the safety of the public that we proudly represent. Protect yourself, your passengers and other motorists by removing distractions that can easily result in a tragic situation. On behalf of Florida’s sheriffs, I fully endorse the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles’ ‘Put it Down’ campaign,” said Levy County Sheriff and FSA President Bobby McCallum.
“Save your life and the lives of the people around you — put down your phone and focus on the road,” said FPCA president and Daytona Beach Shores Public Safety Department Director Stephan Dembinsky. “The Florida Police Chiefs Association joins the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and our law enforcement partners to remind you, distracted driving isn’t just dangerous, it’s illegal.”
“Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mind on the task of driving,” said Michele Harris, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “When you stay focused behind the wheel, you help to save your life and the lives of others.”
For more information, including safe driving tips, information on Florida’s Wireless Communications While Driving Law, and downloadable resources, visit FLHSMV’s Distracted Driving webpage.