Life takes a turn every 44 seconds on Florida’s roadways

Every 44 seconds in Florida, a crash occurs. one of seven crashes is due to a distracted driver

Posted 4/2/24

Distracted driving is an offense often underreported because the nature of the offense...

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Life takes a turn every 44 seconds on Florida’s roadways

Every 44 seconds in Florida, a crash occurs. one of seven crashes is due to a distracted driver


TALLAHASSEE — A crash occurs every 44 seconds in Florida, and one in seven crashes involve distracted drivers. April is National Distracted Driving Awareness Month, and the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV), our division of the Florida Highway Patrol (FHP), and our campaign partners remind drivers that distracted driving is dangerous driving. Preliminary numbers indicate that in 2023, nearly 300 people in Florida died due to distracted driving, up 23 deaths from 2022.

Distracted driving is an offense often underreported because the nature of the offense means that the behaviors associated with distracted driving do not fall under one statute but instead may fall under several, including Texting and Driving, Careless Driving, Failure to Maintain a Single Lane and Aggressive Careless Driving.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines distracted driving as any activity that causes the driver to divert their attention from driving, such as texting or talking on the phone, eating or drinking, conversing with passengers, or adjusting the car’s entertainment or navigation system. These activities can distract a driver from the crucial task of driving safely.

“Anyone operating a vehicle should be free of distractions and be attentive to the roadway, other vehicles, and changes to traffic patterns,” said Executive Director Dave Kerner. “While multitasking may seem normal in our daily lives, it is deadly when you are behind the wheel. Focus on driving safely and arriving safely. Everything else can wait.”

“Distracted Driving is akin to Impaired Driving. Drivers are personally responsible for their driving behavior that impact others on our roadways,” said FHP Colonel Gary L. Howze II. “Keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Drive defensively and be courteous to others. Your personal decision to focus on driving when driving will likely prevent a tragedy on the road.”

Distracted Driving Citations

• Texting while driving citations issued: 2,127 in 2019; 4,263 in 2020; 5,371 in 2021; 6,930 in 2022; and 6,629 in 2023 (preliminary).

• Careless driving citations issued: 195,480 in 2019; 140,589 in 2020; 167,995 in 2021; 161,752 in 2022; and 158,039 in 2023 (preliminary).

• Aggressive careless driving citations issued: 1,878 in 2019; 1,621 in 2020; 1,949 in 2021; 2,177 in 2022; and 2,228 in 2023 (preliminary).

• Failure to maintain single lane: 33,153 in 2019; 19,124 in 2020; 24,937 in 2021; 27,613 in 2022; and 29,946 in 2023 (preliminary).

In Florida, texting while driving is a primary offense under Florida’s Wireless Communications While Driving law. Law enforcement can stop a vehicle solely for using a wireless communications device while driving, including in active work and school zones.

Additionally, other behaviors that commonly occur due to driving while distracted may constitute statutory violations such as careless driving, failure to maintain a single lane or when two or more of the following acts happen at the same time or in succession, they could fall under aggressive careless:

• Exceeding the posted speed limit
• Unsafe or improper lane change
• Following another vehicle too closely
• Violating traffic control and signal devices
• Failing to yield the right of way
• Improper passing

Penalties For Distracted Driving

Distracted driving can be hazardous and lead to fatal crashes. Various activities can cause distractions while driving, and penalties for distracted driving can range from points being added to your driver’s license to substantial fines and court fees. To avoid these consequences, motorists should prioritize safety by eliminating distractions and focusing solely on driving while behind the wheel.

On September 15, 2016, the Scherer family was stuck in traffic heading north on I-75. Their vehicle, a Mazda CX-5, was at a complete stop, as were other cars stuck on the interstate.
Without warning, the Scherer’s vehicle was slammed into from behind by a vehicle going nearly 80 miles per hour. The vehicle, driven by Gregory Andriotis, pushed six cars 76 feet, killing the Scherer’s nine-year-old son Logan and injuring the rest of the family along with others in vehicles ahead of the Scherer’s.

“As your State Attorney, my duties extend beyond prosecution; they include prevention and protection. The 2016 Hernando County accident involving the tragic death of 9-year-old Logan Scherer serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of distracted driving. With this loss, we stand in solidarity with the Scherer family, whose lives will forever be altered by this senseless tragedy,” said State Attorney William “Bill” Gladson, 5th Judicial Circuit.

“Distracted driving is not just a momentary lapse, it’s a conscious choice that causes irreversible harm with catastrophic consequences. The individual who took Logan’s life is now serving 30 years in prison. As we launch this new public safety campaign on distracted driving in partnership with the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, we honor Logan’s memory by committing to undivided attention behind the wheel. Let us drive with vigilance, responsibility, and above all, compassion for those other lives we share the road with.”

Before the crash, Andriotis had been engaged on his phone, using it to text and talk. Witnesses to the crash and even the victims observed Andriotis still using his phone after the crash. Anthony Andriotis was convicted of one count of vehicular homicide and three counts of reckless driving in May 2023. The case is Florida’s first texting and driving case to go to trial. On June 15, 2023, Anthony Andriotis was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

“Achieving the top level of safety on our roads will take everyone doing their part,” said Florida Department of Transportation Assistant Secretary for Engineering and Operations Will Watts, P.E. “While FDOT focuses on providing innovative engineering and designs to enhance safety in our transportation infrastructure, we are grateful that our law enforcement partners are focused on behavior, education, and enforcement to keep Florida’s roadways safe. It’s important that every driver do their part every time they are behind the wheel by staying focused and keeping their eyes on the road. There is absolutely no distraction worth risking a life over, and everybody deserves to reach their destinations safely.”

“Anything diverting your focus from safe driving is Distracted Driving. Whether it’s chatting or texting on your phone, reaching for a snack, adjusting the radio, or tinkering with your navigation, these actions can lead to crashes. Florida’s sheriffs are committed to upholding distracted driving laws to safeguard the public. Take proactive measures to eliminate distractions that could lead to catastrophic outcomes for you, your passengers, and fellow drivers. As President of the Florida Sheriffs Association, I wholeheartedly support the ‘Put It Down’ campaign by the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles,” stated Bill Leeper, Nassau County Sheriff and President of the Florida Sheriffs Association.

“This Distracted Driving Awareness Month, the Florida Police Chiefs Association (FPCA) urges drivers to put their phones away and concentrate on the road,” said FPCA President Charles “Chuck” Broadway, Chief of Police, Clermont PD. “Every time we choose to focus fully on driving, we’re making the roads safer for everyone. Let’s work together to reduce distractions and prevent accidents. Your attention to driving can save lives.”

“Driving distracted is never a good idea,” said Michele Harris, Florida Public Affairs Director, AAA – The Auto Club Group. “Always keep your eyes on the road, your hands on the wheel and your mind on the task of driving.”

For more information, including safe driving tips, information on Florida’s Wireless Communications While Driving Law, and downloadable resources, visit FLHSMV’s Distracted Driving webpage.

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