Any time you take to the road in Florida, you bear a strong duty of care to the passengers in your vehicle and anyone else who shares the road with you: pedestrians, cyclists, and other occupants of passenger vehicles, for example. Unfortunately, many Florida drivers fail to exercise necessary precautions out on the road. In fact, they may end up violating several common traffic laws.
1. Yielding to Pedestrians
According to Florida law, if a vehicle approaches a pedestrian legally crossing the street at an intersection, the vehicle must yield to that pedestrian. Pedestrians already on the road generally have the right of way over vehicles that may not have entered the area. By yielding, drivers help ensure greater overall levels of pedestrian safety and may substantially reduce the risk of an accident.
Some drivers, however, may fail to yield to pedestrians, even if the pedestrian has the right of way as noted by a crossing signal or has already entered the road. Pedestrians, particularly elderly or young pedestrians, may take a long time to cross the street, which can slow down a driver’s travel time and make it more difficult for the driver to get to their destination.
Drivers may, as a result, push through the intersection or try to force the pedestrian back out of the road, which may raise the risk of a devastating collision. Pedestrian accidents can lead to severe injuries or even fatalities since pedestrians have little protection from the road or vehicle that strikes them.
2. Maintaining the Speed Limit
Florida’s speed limits may take into account:
- Visibility along a particular stretch of road.
- How many twists and turns the road goes through.
- Intersections, including intersections with traffic lights and stop signs, along the road.
- What the road looks like in dangerous weather conditions, including the sudden summer storms that may crop up throughout the Florida area.
- Unexpected or hidden dangers.
- Pedestrian and cyclist traffic along the road, including whether pedestrians and cyclists have safe options for safely navigating the road.
When traveling on Florida roads, drivers should carefully maintain the speed limit to reduce their risk of an accident. The speed limit sets the rate drivers can safely travel that road. Often, the speed limit will serve as the limit for good to moderate weather conditions, which means that in heavy rain, drivers may need to slow down further.
Unfortunately, knowing the law and the reason for those speed limits may not prevent drivers from speeding. Speeding on Florida roads can pose a number of potential dangers. At a high rate of speed, drivers may need much more notice to bring the vehicle to a safe stop or to turn it from its current course.
In many cases, drivers cannot react effectively to things like a child stepping out into the street, another vehicle hitting the brakes suddenly, or even an unexpected hazard in the road, like a piece of debris that has fallen from a truck. Furthermore, when drivers choose to speed, if they cause a collision, it often means more force and can mean substantial injury for everyone involved.
3. Distracted Driving
Around 36 percent of people admit to engaging in some activity with their cell phones while driving, including checking the phone for text messages, dialing someone else’s number, checking emails, or even scrolling social media. Florida law, however, prohibits texting while driving. Florida law also prohibits driving while using a handheld cellular device in any manner, including talking on the phone, texting, or sending an email while in work or school zones.
While Florida does not directly prohibit other distracted driving behaviors, from putting on makeup (something that around 6 percent of people may do behind the wheel) to taking pictures (11 percent), those behaviors can prove equally dangerous—and if you engage in distracted behavior that leads to an accident, you may face liability for that incident.
Distracted driving may involve anything that:
- Takes your hands off the wheel (manual distraction)
- Takes your eyes off the road (visual distraction)
- Removes your attention from the road (cognitive distraction)
Using a cellular device while driving, including texting or checking social media, involves all three types of distracted driving and can lead to substantial penalties. However, many people continue to engage in distracting and potentially detrimental behaviors while behind the wheel. Distracted drivers may believe that they can effectively split their attention.
Most people, however, quickly discover that they cannot split their attention well enough to remain safe behind the wheel. As distraction increases, it can raise the risk of a devastating collision.
Distracted drivers may not pay adequate attention to the traffic flow around them or completely miss the presence of pedestrians, cyclists, or even motorcycle riders. Failure to keep attention on the road may also mean that drivers miss out on changes in traffic flow.
4. Driving While Intoxicated
Florida law prohibits driving under the influence of either drugs or alcohol. An adult driver, over the age of 21, with a BAC of 0.08 or above may face drinking and driving charges. Florida statutes lay out a clear fee schedule based on the blood alcohol level of the driver (a BAC of 0.15 or higher can face higher penalties) and the number of previous DUI offenses the driver has. Convictions may also consider the duration between DUI convictions.
Drunk drivers can pose a substantial danger to themselves and everyone sharing the road with them. Frequently, drunk drivers engage in aggressive or unpredictable driving behaviors, which other drivers may have difficulty navigating around.
Drunk drivers may also struggle with several common problems.
- Driving while intoxicated can cause drivers to suffer from tunnel vision, which means they may have a hard time seeing anything around them. With tunnel vision, drivers may never see the presence of a pedestrian or motorcycle, for example.
- Drunk drivers often suffer from decreased motor control, making it more difficult to operate a car safely. Many of the functions involved in driving a vehicle require significant motor control, and drivers who lose it may struggle to keep the car safely on the road.
- Intoxication can cause slowed reflexes. Unfortunately, while driving a motor vehicle, drivers need quick reflexes to help them avoid potential challenges and reduce the risk of an accident.
- Intoxicated drivers may behave in unpredictable ways. For example, an intoxicated driver might travel at a very low rate of speed to hide their intoxication or slam on their brakes suddenly because they did not recognize a movement around them. Those behaviors can significantly increase the risk of a collision.
Unfortunately, because of its popularity as a vacation destination, Florida may have a high risk of intoxicated drivers out on the road. Drunk drivers may bear liability for any accident caused by their dangerous behavior after choosing to drive while intoxicated.
Intoxication does not necessarily have to involve a driver under the influence of alcohol, either. Taking illegal drugs or medication, including some over-the-counter cold medications, can cause symptoms that mimic intoxication and may lead to a devastating accident. Florida drivers who choose to drive under the influence of dangerous substances can also end up liable for any accident caused by those choices.
5. Failing to Yield
Florida often has clearly labeled intersections where drivers must yield to other traffic. For example, at an intersection with a red light, drivers with a red light must yield to drivers with a green light. While drivers can turn right on red when the intersection has no traffic moving through in that direction, they must stop, look, and ensure that they have adequate room to move through the intersection before completing that maneuver.
Drivers may also need to yield when merging onto Florida’s highways and interstates, including I-4, I-95, and I-75. When merging, drivers must yield to traffic already in the lane and wait for adequate room to merge.
Finally, drivers may need to yield when a yield sign indicates another driver has the right of way.
Unfortunately, some drivers may ignore the requirement to yield as they move through traffic and attempt to navigate. Drivers in a hurry may try to force their way into an intersection or force a merge, assuming that other traffic will stop or slow to make room for them. These dangerous behaviors, however, can significantly increase the risk of an accident. A driver who fails to yield may bear liability for any accident resulting from those decisions.
6. Ignoring Traffic Control Devices
Throughout Florida, clear traffic control devices, including lights and signs, designate when drivers can safely proceed through intersections or traffic. Signs may instruct drivers to stop, yield, or avoid going in a particular direction down a stretch of highway.
Some traffic control devices sit permanently in their location. Others may go up temporarily during major events, high traffic times, or construction periods on that stretch of road. Traffic control devices help ensure everyone can pass safely through an area without worrying that they will strike a vehicle from the opposite direction.
Some drivers, however, may fail to adhere to the guidelines laid out by those traffic control devices. Drivers may attempt to push through intersections or ignore signs indicating they have turned the wrong way, which can lead to a devastating collision.
7. Failing to Properly Secure Children
Florida lays out several clear laws for child restraint devices in vehicles.
- Children under six must sit in a crash-tested, federally-approved child restraint device. This includes a car seat or integrated child seat in the vehicle.
- Children under the age of 12 should sit in the vehicle’s rear seats. Until they reach 12 years of age, children may face extreme danger from deployed airbags in the front seat in the event of an accident.
- All children under 18 must wear a seat belt whenever they ride in a vehicle in Florida.
Unfortunately, some children, especially teens, may fight proper restraint laws, so they may refuse to wear seat belts. Some children may refuse to ride in a car seat. Other times, parents may attempt to move their child out of a car seat before they meet the legal requirements.
Florida has relatively lax regulations overall when it comes to child restraint devices. Parents should carefully research available child restraint options, including car seats, and learn more about the best options for their child’s age and developmental level. Using the right device to provide the highest possible level of safety for children can prove invaluable in the event of a crash.
In addition, Florida law does require front-seat passengers in a vehicle and drivers to wear seat belts at all times. Florida law allows officers to pull over vehicles simply because the officer spotted a seat belt violation without any need to identify additional errors or problems.
Get Help if Another Driver’s Florida Traffic Law Violation Resulted in an Accident
If another driver’s traffic law violation resulted in a serious accident, you might be dealing with significant expenses and a long road to recovery. Working with a lawyer lets you learn more about your rights and how to best move forward with a claim against the liable party. Contact an auto accident lawyer in Florida as soon after the accident as possible to learn more about your rights.