Santa Barbara
67° F
Santa Maria
67° F
San Luis Obispo
65° F
66° F

Distracted driving: A legal solution?

Published On: Aug 13 2013 02:36:53 PM CDT
Updated On: Aug 13 2013 02:45:57 PM CDT
Distracted driving

STR New/Reuters

By Joshua Ferraro, Special to THELAW.TV

The Centers for Disease Control reports that distracted driving is a contributing factor in more than 386,000 injuries and more than 3,000 deaths every year. To put that into perspective, you could fill any NFL stadium more than five times with the number of people who are injured by distracted drivers every year. To put a finer point on it, in the last 10 years, this country has lost five times as many husbands and wives, sons and daughters to distracted driving than to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Unfortunately, despite the enormity of the loss created by distracted driving on a daily basis, the legislative response from both the federal and some state governments has been fairly muted. The federal government has taken the most initiative by holding several summits, launching educational campaigns, and banning texting-while-driving for all interstate commercial drivers. It has also encouraged states to prohibit texting while driving within their borders.

However, while the federal government has taken action on his issue, it has refrained from using coercive tactics (such as threatening highway funds) to gain compliance from the states.

The Florida State Legislature has done even less to combat this problem and protect its citizens from the dangers of distracted driving. Every year from 2007-2012, the legislature rejected bills that would ban texting-while-driving throughout the state. In 2013, the legislature finally passed a law on the subject but it was a watered-down version of the bill supporters sought. SB 52 makes texting-while-driving a secondary offense, which means a driver can only be cited if he or she is pulled over for a different reason (speeding, swerving, etc). Even assuming police are able to enforce this law on a widespread basis, the fine for first offenses is a mere $30. In the end, these restrictions will likely be little deterrence to would-be distracted drivers and, therefore, it will have a minimal effect on the substantial number of injuries inflicted each day.

Fortunately, while lawmakers have failed to address this problem, Florida's trial lawyers have started proposing civil remedies that would compensate victims while preventing distracted driving in the future. Recently, courts in Palm Beach and Collier counties have held that punitive damages (those that punish the offender in addition to compensating the victim) are appropriate in distracted driving cases.

Using these decisions as a backdrop, the trial lawyer bar has begun pursuing distracted driving cases as a way to help individual clients, while also making a difference for the community at large. As these punitive damage awards become both routine and publicized, clients will be compensated for their injuries, while would-be distracted drivers are put on notice that their actions will have consequences. In the end, it is the knowledge of these consequences that will convince drivers to keep their focus on the road ahead.

Likewise, trial lawyers are starting to look at solving the problem from a systemic viewpoint by exploring liability on the part of auto manufacturers. Automakers have the ability to incorporate design features aimed at preventing distracted driving. However, as with seat belts and air bags, absent the threat of litigation, they will never do so. Therefore, with the lives and livelihoods of so many on the line, America's trial lawyers will push these corporations to utilize common sense safety features that will keep their customers (and drivers around them) safe.

The author, Joshua Ferraro, is an attorney at the West Palm Beach, Florida personal injury law firm of Lesser, Lesser, Landy & Smith.


The views expressed are not those of this company or its affiliated companies. Please note by clicking on "Post" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms Of Service and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. 
blog comments powered by Disqus
  • fatal_accident_investigation

    Extensive Investigation into Triple Fatal Accident

    An extensive investigation is underway to determine the cause of death in a triple fatal rollover accident Monday morning in Santa Barbara.

  • Triple Fatal Auto Accident on Highway

    3 Dead In Early Morning Accident, Driver Arrested For DUI

    The 101 southbound through Santa Barbara reopened just before 12:30 Monday afternoon as authorities investigate what they say was a deadly two car DUI accident.

  • girl_child_coughing_sick_whooping_cough

    Contagious Diseases Making a Comeback in California

    Deadly diseases that were a thing of the past are making a comeback in California.

  • Witnesses to Fatal Crash

    Eyewitnesses See Triple Fatal Crash from Roadside Camp

    A homeless couple watching the freeway from their campsite in Santa Barbara this morning, witnessed the triple fatal accident that took the lives of two teens and a young man.

  • fuzion_store_business_santa_barbara

    UCSB Group Boycotts Business For Promoting Deltopia

    A UCSB student group is boycotting a local business for creating the Deltopia Facebook page, which they said brought in thousands of outsiders to the small college town.

  • Triple Fatal Auto Accident on Highway

    DUI Driver in Fatal Early Morning Accident Ordered to Detox Program in 1995

    The Santa Barbara woman arrested for DUI in the early morning accident that left three people dead early Monday morning has a lengthy court record out of Ventura County. Kimberly Kreis, 52, was ordered to serve 30 days in a detox program as far back as 1995.

    The car that Kreis was driving crashed into a disabled Mazda near the Castillo off-ramp of the southbound 101 freeway in Santa Barbara. Two 17 year old North Torrance High School students were killed in the accident- Jessica Leffew and Danielle Murillo. 20 year old Brian Lopez also died in the wreck. The driver of the Mazda, Eric August, is hospitalized in critical condition.

    A NewsChannel 3 investigation found records out of Ventrua County that appear to show that Greis has at least one prior conviction involving drugs and or alcohol, and in 1995 she was ordered to serve 30 days in a Cottage Hospital detox program.

    CHP investigators are still trying to piece together why the Mazda veered right into a guardrail, causing it to flip onto it's roof before coming to rest in the middle of the southbound freeway, which set into motion the deadly accident.

    CHP Officer Jonathan Guiterrez, said "A lot of things could have happened, He could have fallen asleep. We just don't know at this point."

  • Parents of Mallory Dies Sue Congresswoman, Her Former Aide, and U.S. Government

    The parents of a young Santa Barbara woman killed in a high profile, DUI case are suing Congresswoman Lois Capps, her former aide Raymond Morua, and the U-S government in federal court.

  • Larry Lee Cal Poly Coach

    Cal Poly Baseball Earns No. 1 National Ranking

    The Mustangs achieved the school's second No. 1 national ranking in Division I as Collegiate Baseball Newspaper has placed Cal Poly atop its Top 30.

  • Lupita Nyong'o

    REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

    People's 'World's Most Beautiful' list 2014

    People magazine recently named Lupita Nyong'o its "World's Most Beautiful" for 2014. See which other ladies earned a coveted spot on the annual list.

  • Slideshow: Extensive Investigation into Triple Fatal Accident

    An extensive investigation is underway to determine the cause of death in a triple fatal rollover accident Monday morning in Santa Barbara.