April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month. The Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) and its division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP) are educating Florida motorists on the importance of avoiding distracted driving and following the laws in place designed to prevent distracted driving crashes.
According to FLHSMV data, distracted driving crashes resulted in 268 fatalities in 2022 – down 77 deaths from last year’s eight-year high of 345.
But with 53,596 distracted driving crashes in Florida last year, that means, on average, there were 1,116 distracted driving crashes every week. For additional data information, visit FLHSMV’s Distracted Driving Crash Dashboard.
“Distracted driving is dangerous driving,” said FLHSMV Executive Director Dave Kerner. “If you’re behind the wheel, put away all distractions. Do not jeopardize your safety or the safety of your passengers or others on the road.”
Texting while driving is a primary offense of Florida’s “Wireless Communications While Driving” law. Law enforcement can stop a vehicle solely for using a wireless communications device while driving, including in active work and school zones.
Drivers under 30 represent almost 40% of all distracted driving-related crashes.
In Florida, citations for distracted driving peak with the 30-34 age demographic, but crashes are highest among the 20-24 age group.
Distracted driving is anything that takes your hands off the wheel, your eyes off the road or, your mind off driving. Distracted driving could be texting while driving or just scrolling on your phone, but it may not be limited to it. Other passengers, browsing music, using navigation devices, eating, or monitoring children could all distract you while driving and cause an inopportune break in concentration that could result in a crash.
Distracted driving can hurt not only you and your passengers but can significantly influence the driving behavior of others, especially young, impressionable drivers.
In 48 states, as well as the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the U.S. Virgin Islands, texting while driving is illegal. Offenders can be ticketed, fined, and get points on a driver license.
“If you don’t see it, you can’t react to it,” FHP Lt. Col. Mark Brown said. “FHP urges everyone regardless of age to keep your eyes on the road at all times to prevent tragic situations from occurring.”
‘PUT IT DOWN’ ADVICE
- When driving, set an example of safe driving behavior – phone out of view, no texting, limit distractions.
- If you need to text, pull over to a safe location and put your car in Park. Or, if you have a passenger, have them respond to calls or messages.
- Are you struggling with texting while driving? Activate your phone’s “Do Not Disturb” feature, or put your cell phone in your vehicle’s trunk, glove box, or back seat until you arrive at your destination.
- Listen to your passengers: If they catch you texting while driving and tell you to put your phone away, PUT IT DOWN. If you see someone texting while driving, speak up. If your friend is texting while driving, tell them to stop.
DISTRACTED DRIVING SAFETY PARTNERS
“With Florida’s unprecedented population increases, some areas of the state have had 20-30 percent growth, which is evident by considerably more vehicles on our roadways statewide. This congestion impacts our quality of life, and while the Department continues to pursue options to address increased congestion, it’s important that drivers stay focused on driving while behind the wheel,” said Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Jared W. Perdue, P.E. “When you drive, keep your eyes on the road and stay focused. No distraction is worth risking a life.”
“Distracted driving is any activity that takes your attention away from being a safe driver. Even the smallest tasks like talking or texting on your phone, eating, drinking, or fiddling with the radio or navigation system can result in a crash. Our sheriffs stand ready to enforce the Florida distracted driving laws to ensure public safety. 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 Hernando County Sheriff and Florida Sheriffs Association President Al Nienhuis.
“Florida law prohibits texting while driving because distracted driving can kill,” said FPCA President and Fellsmere Police Department Chief Keith Touchberry. “The Florida Police Chiefs Association is proud to stand with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles and urge every driver to obey the law and focus on the road.”
“Safe driving requires your full attention,” said Michele Harris, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Remember to keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mind on the task of driving.”