Factors That Contribute to Car Accidents
More than 15,000,000 vehicles are classified as automobiles or pickup trucks registered across Florida, which means there are millions of drivers on the roadways. Given this number of vehicles, it should come as no surprise during 2018 there were more than 400,000 car accidents and during the first half of 2019, there were nearly 200,000 accidents according to information found on the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV) crash dashboard.
Like every state, safety on Florida roadways continues to be a challenge because drivers make plain, bad decisions. Whether a driver chooses to get behind the wheel of their car when they are impaired by drugs or alcohol, use their cell phone while traveling, or drive too fast for road conditions, accidents occur every single day of the year due to poor driver judgment.
Issued Citations Indicate Increased Car Accident Risk
Florida maintains a list of citations that were issued for drivers on Florida roadways. When determining some of the common reasons for car accidents, one can review these statistics to get an idea of some of the most common violations. There are two classifications, criminal and non-criminal. The statistics look like this:
- Total criminal citations issued in one year – 359,956
- Suspended licenses – 140,148 (38.9 percent)
- No license/expired license – 62,766 (17.4 percent)
- DUI citations – 43,715 (12.1 percent)
- Leaving the scene of an accident – 15,187 (4.12 percent)
- Reckless driving – 5,979 (1.16 percent)
There were several other categories, including racing on the highway, fleeing, and other crimes that the report outlined, but those listed above are the ones that stand out the most. Using only these categories, of the 267,795 citations issued, 96,436 resulted in guilty findings when pursued, representing 36 percent of the criminal citations (which is in line with the total average of 37 percent for all categories).
- Total non-criminal citations issued in one year – 1,691,072
- Speeding in a posted zone – 664,767 (39.3 percent)
- Red light/stop sign violations – 426,140 (25.2 percent)
- Careless/distracted driving – 197,657 (11.7 percent)
- Improper lane change/backing up – 78,226 (4.6 percent)
Other citations were issued for failing to stop for school buses, following too close, and toll violations, but these citations highlight just how dangerous Florida roadways can be. For these categories, there were 1,366,790 citations issued resulting in 63,645 guilty findings. The 4.5 percent of guilty findings is also in line with the total for all categories, which was 5 percent overall.
Delving Into the Statistics
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) during 2017, there were an estimated 2,775,608 accidents on roadways across the United States resulting in more than 1.5 million injuries. A deeper look into the statistics offered by the various databases found on their website shows the following are the most common reasons car accidents occur:
- Distracted drivers – Identified as the most common cause of accidents, drivers can be distracted in any manner of ways, including use of their cell phone, programming GPS systems, eating, and even talking to others in the car. According to the NHTSA distracted driving was responsible for more than 3,000 fatalities in 2017 alone. Many states have put laws into place that prohibit the use of cell phones unless it is done using a hands-free option. Since nearly 200,000 citations were issued to distracted drivers, many accidents resulted from this bad habit.
- Driving under the influence – While Florida currently only has laws on the books that apply to medical marijuana, there may be future legislation that legalizes recreational marijuana. In addition to marijuana, alcohol, prescription, and over the counter drugs can inhibit a driver’s reflexes resulting in car accidents. Drunk driving remains one of the common reasons for car accidents. While Florida has no specific breakdown of non-alcohol operating under the influence (OUI) incidents, with more than 43,000 DUI citations issued one can assume many accidents could have resulted.
- Speed limit violations – Speeding remains one of the most common causes of car accidents regardless of whether it is on a city street or a country road. Ignoring speed limits, particularly on the highway, is common, and these drivers are often unaware they have a slower reaction time when driving fast. More than 650,000 citations were issued to drivers speeding on Florida roadways in one recent year.
- Reckless driving – Whether a driver is being overly aggressive, changing lanes too fast, or simply traveling well over the speed limit, reckless driving is a constant concern to those drivers who are operating their vehicles safely. These drivers can cause havoc on the roadway but also pose unique dangers to bicycle riders, motorcycle operators, and pedestrians. Losing control of a vehicle is a potential danger when a vehicle is being operated recklessly and the aftermath can be devastating.
- Roadway conditions – While Florida may not share a worry with some of the states where snow or ice pose a hazard on the roadways, we have our own unique set of problems including rain, howling winds, and animals in the roadway. These conditions can all be responsible for accidents if a driver is not paying attention to what is occurring around them.
Driving on crowded roadways is often a challenge, and Florida’s population swells during the winter months as the “snowbirds” descend on the area to escape colder weather. Drivers who fail to take into consideration heavy traffic, changing road conditions, or who fail to operate their vehicles safely pose a danger to everyone on the road (as well as pedestrians).
What to Do Following an Accident
If you have been a victim of an accident on Florida roads, you should be aware of the steps you should take first to protect yourself as well as any passengers in your vehicle. There are some things you should make sure happen in the immediate aftermath of an accident, including:
- Get off the road – As quickly as possible you should remove your vehicle from the roadway. This is important as you will be impeding traffic and could potentially cause an additional accident resulting in more serious injuries. If you physically can, get your car to the side of the road as far away from traffic as possible.
- Verify the conditions of those involved – The condition of everyone in your vehicle as well as any other vehicles involved in a car accident should be verified. This will be important as you should let law enforcement know of anyone who may need advanced assistance that could be provided on the scene by Emergency Medical Services (EMS).
- Notify law enforcement – Contact law enforcement officers as quickly as possible to ensure they are aware of the accident and let them know if an ambulance or EMS is necessary. Let them know how many vehicles are involved in the accident as well as the number of people if possible.
- Obtain information – If you physically can, get the names and contact information for all witnesses to the accident. In addition, you should share driver’s license information and insurance information with other motor vehicle operators. Use your cell phone and take photographs of the accident scene including road signs or traffic signals, speed limit signs, damage to the vehicles involved, and anything else that may seem pertinent.
- Get medical attention – All passengers and operators should seek medical attention regardless of whether they believe they are injured or not. Since we all have different reactions to trauma, having a medical professional examine all victims can ensure their safety.
- Notify insurance company – Since Florida is a no-fault insurance state, you should immediately notify your auto insurance carrier of the accident. There is no need to go into any detail, you should provide the date, time, and location of the accident as well as the information about which law enforcement agency took the report. Remember how insurance adjusters work and keep your own council including how much you disclose about your physical condition and the incident itself.
- Seek legal advice – If you have been involved in an accident on Florida roadways you may want to seek legal advice to find out what rights you have under Florida’s laws. Most of us are not aware of what steps we can take to recover financial damages, and your insurance company is not likely to explain your rights to you. Since a consultation with a Florida car accident lawyer is free, you can find out what options you have.
Dealing With Healthcare Coverage After an Accident
You may want to notify your healthcare insurance provider about your car accident. Keep in mind, drivers who have Personal Injury Protection (PIP) coverage, which is required in Florida, should be seeking payment of medical bills from their auto insurance provider under this provision. Keep in mind, since Florida is a no-fault state, your first line of defense is your own insurance company.
Recovering From a Car Accident
One of the most important things you can do after being involved in a car accident is to make sure you take care of yourself physically. Do not ignore symptoms that seem to come out of the blue including unexplained pain, headaches that seem unusual, blurry vision, or other symptoms that may indicate there is a problem that a doctor should address. See your physician if you have any unusual symptoms immediately and document any care you receive.
During your recovery, keep track of several items, including:
- New physical symptoms – You should carefully document any symptoms that the injuries you sustained during the car accident may have caused. Make sure you seek medical attention if any unusual symptoms appear as they may have future health implications.
- Emotional symptoms – It is common after a car accident to have periods of time where you are emotionally drained. Trauma is a problem when you are in any serious accident, so do not just ignore these symptoms. Keep a record of them and if they seem to get worse, seek the proper care.
- Doctor visits – Carefully document all your trips to your personal care physician as well as visits for specialized tests, lab work, or therapy sessions. In addition, you should consider documenting your mileage for these visits.
- Work issues – If you cannot return to work immediately following a car accident you should track the amount of time you are losing. If you are getting disability benefits through your job, make sure you file the proper paperwork, so you have some income while you recover. Track the difference between your usual earnings and the amount of disability payments.
- Home issues – If you are facing challenges meeting your home obligations including cleaning, caring for your children, or other normal tasks, it is a good idea to record these instances with your other records. This could be important should you decide to pursue a personal injury lawsuit.
In the immediate aftermath of a car accident, the last thing on your mind is suing the driver responsible for your injuries. However, in cases where you have suffered a serious injury resulting in weeks of recovery time, multiple trips to the doctor, lost time from work, and other financial losses, you may not have any other options. Unless you, or the responsible driver, have more than the minimum required PIP coverage, you could spend thousands of dollars out of pocket while you lose your wages for weeks or months.
A car accident lawyer may assist you in recovering your out of pocket costs by filing a lawsuit. This is another reason why it is so important to carefully document how you feel, doctor visits, and other related information.
Seek an Experienced Car Accident Attorney
If you were in one of the hundreds of thousands of roadway accidents in Florida, and you believe the other driver involved in the accident was acting negligently, you probably have many questions, you may not know which steps you can take, or what your legal rights are. You can get answers to these questions and a better understanding of your rights under Florida laws by talking to an experienced car accident attorney as soon as possible.
Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765