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Florida Troopers Crack Down on Distracted Driving With “Staying Alive on I-75”

Florida state troopers and local law enforcement agencies are bolstering their presence on Interstate-75 in April as part of the national “Staying Alive on I-75” initiative, which seeks to slash deaths by 15 percent along one of the nation’s longest highways.

Dozens of fatal crashes occur along the highway every year, attributed to a variety of risky behavior by drivers, including intoxication, fatigue and general recklessness. However, our Broward car accident lawyers know a growing problem in recent years has to do with behind-the-wheel distractions, which is why it’s going to be a top focus for troopers.

I-75 is one of the lengthiest stretches of highway in America, measuring some 1,800 miles from the east coast of Florida up through five other states, ending in Michigan at the border of Ontario. Troopers and law enforcement officials in other states are on board with this effort as well.

According to the Naples Daily News, a similar effort on Interstate-10 in Tallahassee resulted in a 10 percent reduction in traffic fatalities.

In addition to the boosted patrols in April, heavy enforcement weekends will continue throughout the rest of the year, including in late June, late September and late December.

In targeting distracted drivers, troopers in Florida will have somewhat of a tougher time than those in other states because we have one of the most lenient texting-while-driving laws in the country. It only became a crime last year, but it’s a secondary offense, meaning law enforcement has to note some other moving violation before a stop can be initiated.

Even if the driver is caught, he or she may only be subject to a minuscule fine.

Lawmakers in Tallahassee are working to change that, with a proposed measure set to be heard in the state House of Representatives that would make traffic fatalities resulting from texting and driving a felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison – which would put it on par with sentences meted out for DUI manslaughter. It would include not just texting, but social media updates and GPS engagement – anything that involves typing on a phone or other electronic device.

Unfortunately, these kinds of driving habits are incredibly common. A recent report by the AAA Foundation for Safety found that the average American spends one hour and 15 minutes each day behind the wheel, and many use it as an opportunity to multi-task. Driver inattention is believed to be a factor in more than 1 million crashes annually, resulting serious injuries, deaths and costing us nearly $40 billion a year.

While 90 percent of drivers surveyed by the foundation indicated that drivers talking on cell phones was a serious threat to their safety and 95 percent of drivers said the same about texting, more than two-thirds of those same respondents admitted to doing it themselves.

The foundation recommends drivers do the following to reduce distracted driving:
—Adjust your seat positions, climate controls, sound systems and other devices either before you leave or while the vehicle is stopped, or have a passenger assist you.
—Wait until you are stopped to eat or drink.
—If you must answer a call or text message, pull over to a safe location or wait until the vehicle is stopped.
—Plan ahead. Know the directions, check traffic conditions and plug your destination into the GPS before you get on the road so you won’t need to do it while you’re en route.
—Pull over if you need to care for your children. Change the baby, feed the child and strap them properly into their seats before you leave. If an issue arises while you’re driving, pull over to address it. Don’t try to handle it while you’re driving.

Call Freeman Injury Law — 1-800-561-7777 for a free appointment to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:
Florida Highway Patrol launches ‘Staying Alive on I-75’ initiative targeting distracted drivers, March 28, 2014, By Kristine Gill, Naples Daily News

More Blog Entries:
Fatalities Highlight Risk of Wrong Way Accidents in Broward, Miami-Dade, March 21, 2014, Hollywood Car Accident Lawyer Blog

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