Florida is one of the few states left that allows drivers to talk on a cell phone while driving, but those days may be limited. Rep. Carolyn McCarthy, D-N.Y. recently introduced legislation that could potentially, if passed, federalize driving and cell phone usage. As it stands now, each individual state currently manages their cell phone and driving laws. Under the proposed legislation, the U.S. Department of Transportation would be required to set a nationwide standard that would prohibit all drivers from using a cell phone while they’re behind the wheel of a motor vehicle, according to Auto Trends Magazine.
Distracted driving car accidents in West Palm Beach and elsewhere in Florida are bound to continue with no state or federal law in effect to ban the use of cell phones by drivers. Drivers who use a cell phone are four times as likely to get into an accident that’s serious enough to cause injuries.
Our Palm Beach car accident attorneys understand that roughly 20 percent of all traffic accidents in 2009 that resulted in injury involved reports of distracted driving. If motorists aren’t going to curb the habit themselves, it may be necessary to enact a nationwide ban on the dangerous driving habit.
“Driving while making a phone call, texting or using apps can be as dangerous as driving drunk, and much more common,” Rep. McCarthy said. “With some basic commonsense rules that are already in place in some parts of the country, we can reduce injuries and save lives in America.”
McCarthy’s proposed legislation does have exclusions. Drivers will still be able to use a cell phone in the event of an emergency. They will still be able to use their phones if they’re voice-operated or if it is part of a vehicle-integrated device. Drivers would also still be allowed to use voice-operated GPS systems.
This proposed nationwide law aims to reduce the number of distracted driving accidents on our roadways. Researchers have concluded that there are still some cognitive distractions present with certain hands-free devices, but it is much less of a problem than using a hand-held device.
If the law were to pass, it would require the DOT to conduct a study on distracted driving. They would have to focus primarily on the issue of cognitive distraction and the impact of distraction on young, newly-licensed drivers. After the study, the DOT would have to report the findings to Congress and provide a list of recommendations for revising the minimum distracted driving prohibitions and penalties that all states are to comply with. Each state would then be given two years to comply with the new law. If a state does not comply, they would lose 25 percent of their federal highway funding.
According to Distraction.gov, nearly 5,500 people died on our roadways because of traffic accidents in 2009. Another 448,000 people were injured in these incidents. Distracted driving was reported to be a contributor to 20 percent of these accidents. More specifically, a cell phone was the reported distraction in 18 percent of all distracted driving-related accidents.