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Traffic fatalities in Palm Beach County up, distracted driving may be to blame

While much of the country has acknowledged the dangers of distracted driving, Florida has yet to implement any laws banning certain behaviors common among distracted drivers. Florida as a whole - and Palm Beach County in particular - recently saw a spike in traffic fatalities, leading many to question whether it is time for Florida legislators to take action to prevent distracted driving fatalities.

In 2012, the number of deaths caused by motor vehicle accidents increased by 17 percent in Palm Beach County, according to the Florida Highway Patrol. In 2011, there were 116 traffic fatalities in the county - in 2012, that number jumped to 136. This was the first time the number of traffic fatalities caused by auto accidents had increased in Palm Beach County since 2005 and 2006.

Consequently, many have speculated about the reasons for this sudden rise in traffic deaths in south Florida. Governor Scott, legislators and some law enforcement officials have pointed to the lack of legislation governing distracted driving in Florida. Many states have implemented laws banning certain risky behaviors; however, no distracted driving laws are currently in place in Florida.

FL lawmakers calling for legislation banning distracted driving

In response to the rise in traffic fatalities, Governor Scott ordered a study to determine whether texting while driving is contributing to the problem. Texting while behind the wheel is a particularly dangerous type of distracted driving, as it distracts the driver in a variety of ways. When a driver texts, he or she is distracted:

  • Manually
  • Visually
  • Cognitively

A Virginia Tech study revealed that drivers who text are 23 times more likely to be involved in a motor vehicle accidents than non-distracted drivers.

In addition, state representative Slosberg, from Boca Raton, has also called for legislation in Florida to prevent distracted driving. He intends to focus on implementing a law that would prohibit novice drivers from using cellphones while behind the wheel. Similar laws have been enacted in other states around the country, as young drivers are the demographic most likely to be involved in a distracted driver accident.

Distracted driving is a safety risk that has led to fatal accidents across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,331 people died in distracted driver accidents and another 387,000 suffered personal injuries in 2011.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a distracted driving accident, consulting with a skilled, Palm Beach County personal injury attorney will ensure your rights are protected.