Single-Vehicle Crashes & Texting

Each day in the United States, more than 9 people are killed and more than 1,153 people are injured in crashes that are reported to have involved a distracted driver.  Distracted driving is any activity that could divert a person’s attention away from the primary task of driving. The CDC website defined this distraction as three main types that visually, manually and cognitively take your mind off of driving. Visually, distracted driving means taking your eyes off of the road.

Manually, this activity means taking your hands off of the wheel; and cognitively, it means taking your mind off of driving. Consequently, one of the most distracting activities of all is texting while driving because it combines all three types of distraction.

Unfortunately, key findings from the 2011 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey showed how popular this distraction is, especially for teenagers:

  • Nearly half of all U.S. high school students’ aged 16 years or older text or email while driving.
  • Students who text while driving are twice as likely to ride with a driver who has been drinking or five times as likely to drink and rive than students who don’t text while driving.
  • Students who frequently text while driving are more likely to ride with a drinking driver or drink and drive than students who text while driving less frequently.

And while groups and lawmakers have drafted laws that ban texting while driving or use a graduated drivers licensing system for teen drivers to help raise awareness about the dangers of distracted driving and to keep it from occurring, there is a lack of study on the effectiveness of cell phone and texting laws on essentially decreasing distracted drivers [1].

As such, the Florida Ban on Texting While Driving Law states,

A person may not operate a motor vehicle while manually typing or entering multiple letters, numbers, symbols, or other characters into a wireless communications device or while sending or reading data on such a device for the purpose of nonvoice interpersonal communication, including, but not limited to, communication methods known as testing, emailing and instant messaging…

Any person who violates this paragraph commits a noncriminal traffic infraction, punishable as a nonmoving violation as provided in 318.”[2]

Some Key Facts to Remember

A study entitled, The Impact of Hand-Held And Hands-Free Cell Phone Use on Driving Performance and Safety Critical Event Risk by the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute (VTTI), shows that engaging in visual-manual subtasks (such as reaching for a phone, dialing and texting) associated with the use of hand-held phones and other portable devices increased the risk of getting into a crash by three times. The study also found:

  • Text messaging, browsing and dialing resulted in the longest duration of drivers taking their eyes off the road.
  • Text messaging increased the risk of a crash or near-crash by two times and resulted in drivers taking their eyes off the road for an average of 23 second total.
  • Activities performed when completing a phone call (reaching for a phone, looking up a contact and dialing the number) increased crash risk by three times.
  • There is no direct increased crash risk from the specific act of talking on a cell phone. However, visual-manual tasks (locating the phone, looking at the phone and touching the phone) are always involved when using a hand-held cell phone. This makes the overall use of a hand-held cell phone riskier when driving.
  • Even portable hands-free and vehicle integrated hands-free cell phone use involved visual-manual task at least half of the time [3].

Local Story

A single-vehicle run-off-road crash on the Courtney Campbell Causeway on Sunday killed a Tampa woman and seriously injured a 2-year-old passenger. Tampa police say that Sha-Mhya Hydiah, 19, was driving west near Rocky Point on Sunday around 6:30 pm when she received a text message and looked down at her phone. She then swerved into a concrete barrier and rolled over, ejecting the child from the car.

Hydiah, who was not wearing a seat belt, died at the scene, police said. Another passenger, 20-year-old Marquise Neal, was wearing a seatbelt and sustained non-life threatening injuries. However, the child, Zarcarin Neal, was in a car seat that police say appears to not have been properly buckled.

The child was originally taken to Mease Countryside Hospital in Clearwater for treatment. The child was then air lifted to St. Joseph’s Hospital in Tampa, where she remains in serious condition; however, the child is expected to survive [4].

Single-Vehicle Run-Off-Road Crashes

According to the National Highway and Traffic Safety Association, a vehicle in transport sometimes leaves the travel lands and encroaches onto the shoulder, median, roadside, parking lane, gore, or a separator and hits one or more natural or artificial objects. This event usually involves a single vehicle and is referred to as a run-off-road (ROR) crash. Unfortunately for the victims of the local crash, ROR crashes contribute to a large portion of fatalities and serious injuries to the vehicle occupants in fatal single-vehicle crashes—around 70 percent of the fatal single-vehicle crashes are ROR crashes.

As such, vehicles with high occupancy (two or more occupants), male driver, younger driver, and alcohol used by driver, are more likely to be involved in fatal single-vehicle ROR crashes as compared to single-vehicle on the road crashes. Drivers with performance-related factors such as sleepiness, inattentiveness (distracted driving), over-correcting, avoiding, etc. are more likely to be involved in the fatal single-vehicle ROR crashes.

Dolman Law Group

Even with statistics that show the dangers of texting and driving, without the data to show the effectiveness of Florida’s cell phone laws as well as the no-fault insurance requirements that Florida necessitates, many drivers feel as though they have a low risk of any legal consequence when their phone use causes auto accidents.

Single-vehicle crashes are especially hard to determine because of Florida’s no-fault policy. Sometimes, if there are poor road conditions, mechanical problems or inadequate road signs, the state, city or car company may be found at fault. However, one may not receive any compensation or PIP insurance if they are found to be texting while driving, among many other distractions.

Nevertheless, if you or anyone you know has been involved in a car accident due to the cell phone usage of another driver, you may be entitled to compensation. Distracted driving is a serious public danger and the attorneys at Dolman Law Group are dedicated to creating public awareness. Whatever your situation is, please contact our firm in New Port Richey at (727) 853-6275 for any questions you may have.

Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652
(727) 853-6275