In a statement that shocked distracted driving attorneys in Orlando, a Florida highway safety official recently told lawmakers that data on how distracted driving affects Florida auto accidents is unreliable. Matthew Montgomery, Legislative Affairs Director for the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, recently told legislators that 2011 distracted driving crash data is flawed due to the way that data is collected after accidents. He said that law enforcement officials have the option to include what type of distraction caused an accident in their reports but are not required to do so. He went on to say that it is impossible to determine whether or not a driver was talking or texting while driving if he or she is killed in an accident.
“Clearly this is not the full picture of what is happening in Florida,” said Montgomery.
Regular readers of this blog know that our state is one of the few in the country without laws banning drivers from texting while driving. Many bills banning texting have been introduced in the state legislature in recent years, but none have been passed into law. Many lawmakers steadfastly refuse to approve such laws, saying that they unfairly encroach on drivers’ personal liberties. Many lawmakers on both sides of the issue reacted strongly to Montgomery’s statements about inaccurate distracted data collection.
“I think it’s safe to say that we need to come up with a better way to collect the data,” said Chairman of Transportation and Highway Safety subcommittee Rep. Daniel Davis, R-Jacksonville.
Rep. Doug Holder, R-Venice and author of HB 13, one of the most recent bills introduced to ban texting while driving, said that most lawmakers understand that they are working with data that may be incomplete.
“I think having a law on the books will give them even more of an incentive to report accurate information,” he said. “It will because if there’s any kind of infraction and a citation is issued it will have to state that it was caused by texting.”
HB 13 is scheduled to be heard in the near future. He told reporters that he and other lawmakers agree with amendments that were passed on the Senate texting ban recently and his bill and another, HB 52, introduced by Sen. Nancy Detert, R-Venice, will be nearly identical by the time they are heard in the Senate. Even though there are federal funding incentives in place for states that ban texting while driving, legislators will not be able to take advantage of what would be $17 million in federal funds, as they won’t be able to pass legislation before the deadline for fiscal year 2013.
Mr. Montgomery is certainly entitled to his opinion, but there are numerous independent studies that prove that drivers who text are at a significantly higher risk of causing an accident than those who do not use their cell phones while driving. Texting and talking on cell phones while driving is dangerous, negligent and endangers everyone in the driver’s vicinity. If you have been injured in an accident caused by a distracted driver, you may be entitled to compensation. For more information about your rights and legal options, call Orlando personal injury lawyer James O. Cunningham today at 877-FL-INJURY (877-354-6587) to schedule your free consultation.
James O. Cunningham
Since 1977, personal injury lawyer James Cunningham has provided effective legal advocacy to people who are injured through the negligent actions of another person or entity throughout the Central Florida area. He fights to obtain recoveries for his clients’ physical and emotional pain and suffering and pursues his clients’ personal injury cases with a commitment to excellence and impeccable preparation.
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