Three young children set out for their daily evening walk down their tree-lined country road with their mother. Because of the allegedly careless actions of a distracted driver, one of them was killed, another has been critically injured and their mother is hospitalized.
The Florida car accident reportedly occurred in Brooksville, about 1.5 hours directly west of Orlando. Florida Highway Patrol troopers told the Tampa Bay Times the 26-year-old motorist, operating a 2002 Jaguar, dropped a cigarette. He became distracted and reached for it. He lost control of the car and struck the young family.
The 3-year-old girl died of her injuries. Her 1-year-old brother was flown to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, where he was fighting for his life, his condition listed as “very critical.” The oldest, a 6-year-old girl, was amazingly not hurt, but their mother is hospitalized with serious injuries, though she was listed as “stable.”
The children’s father had been on his way home from work when the car accident occurred. Neighbors said many folks took walks along the street, though speeding and careless driving had been problems of late.
At-fault driver in this case was arrested on charges of driving with a suspended license and causing serious injury. Authorities are gathering more information, but he’s likely to be charged with vehicular manslaughter as well. He was also ticketed for careless driving.
April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
Distraction while driving is a huge problem, not just in Florida but nationwide. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports 3,200 people were killed and 431,000 injured by distracted drivers just in 2014 alone.
Of course, it’s not just a rogue cigarette that is to blame. In many cases, it’s the increasing number of smartphones.
A recent study by Erie Insurance analyzed how many drivers posted to social media accounts with the hashtag #whiledriving. In tracking 90 days worth of social media data via an analytics program that scanned iPhones, iPads and Androids that had their location service turned on.
A search of that hashtag just on Instagram revealed more than 18,000 results.
The top hashtags found in conjunction with #whiledriving were:
That tells us these people are routinely snapping photos of picturesque skies and uploading them – while they are operating a two-ton mass of metal at speeds capable of causing serious injury and death.
Among the top states where the #whiledriving tag was most frequently used:
- South Carolina
- New York
The researchers also found men were more likely to post distracted than women, as 55 percent of the #whiledriving posts were uploaded by men.
Perhaps this is not especially shocking, given that the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety survey indicated 87 percent of drivers conceded to engaging in at least one unsafe behavior in the past 30 days.
Drivers need to have their eyes on the road, hands on the wheel in order to effectively operate a vehicle. But instead, it seems they are in many cases staring off into the sunset – or searching their vehicle for something they dropped.
It’s something so innocuous that only takes seconds, but can alter the lives of all involved forever.
Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights. Now serving Orlando, West Palm Beach, Port St. Lucie and Fort Lauderdale.
Distractions #whiledriving Take a Doubly Scary Turn, April 5, 2016, By Leah Knapp, Erie Insurance
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