The law concerning reckless driving in Florida is explicit:
“Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.” Florida Statute 316.192
Reckless driving is dangerous, reckless driving has the potential to cause harm to innocent drivers on the roadways, and reckless driving is a criminal offense.
The Florida Department of Highway Safety And Motor Vehicles posts an annual uniform traffic citation report. The total numbers for January 1 through December 31, 2018, are staggering, eye-opening, and unacceptable. Reckless driving citations, broken down by the specific infraction, were:
- Speeding – 4,877 citations issued
- Careless driving – 197,818 citations issued
- Failure to yield – 73,167 citations issued
- Following too close – 20,368 citations issued
- Improper lane changes – 60,855 citations
Causes of Reckless Driving Commonly Handled by Car Accident Lawyers
All of the following actions are examples of a reckless driver’s wanton disregard for another person’s safety and property.
In spite of harsh criminal punishments, on average, one alcohol-impaired-driving fatality occurred every 48 minutes during 2017. And alcohol is by no means the sole reason for impaired driving. Other factors include:
- Use of legally prescribed drugs
- Use of illegal drugs
- Use of over the counter medications
- Certain medical conditions
A commonly overlooked cause of impaired driving is the use of over-the-counter allergy medications. Products containing antihistamines can cause blurred vision, sleepiness, slowed reaction time, and impaired judgment or cognitive ability. Is taking allergy medicine against the law? Of course not. Can someone be held liable if they cause an accident while driving after taking this medicine? Absolutely.
In addition to allergy medications, other perfectly legal drugs that may cause a driver to be considered driving under the influence can include:
- Pain relievers
- Anti-anxiety medication
- Blood pressure medication
- Sleeping pills
- Diet medications
Speeding and Erratic Driving
Almost 14 percent of the traffic citations issued in Florida in 2018 were for speeding. Accidents happen every day, but speeding does not happen by accident. It takes a conscious effort to drive faster than the posted speed limit or to drive faster than current road or weather conditions should reasonably allow. Some folks drive too fast just because they can. This is a form of aggression that has no place on our highways. Other reasons include:
- Heavy traffic tempting a frustrated driver to go too fast
- Running late for work or an appointment
- A disregard for others’ safety
- Impaired judgment
- The driver thinking they will not be caught
- Trying to keep pace with the flow of traffic
- Road rage
- A feeling of exhilaration
- Habit—it’s sad but true, some people are habitual offenders
- Inexperienced drivers, especially young drivers
Injuries from a speed-related accident tend to be severe, and are sometimes fatal. Some of the more common injuries a personal injury law firm can help a victim recover financially from are:
- Traumatic brain injury
- Spinal cord injury and paralysis
- Back and neck injuries
- Compression fractures
- Ocular injuries
Failure to Stop
Although ignorance is no excuse, a driver who is unfamiliar with the roadway on which they are driving can easily miss and run a stop sign. Chances are that most of us have, or will, drive through an intersection at which we should have stopped at least once in our lifetime. While this is usually unintentional, the consequences can be devastating. Distracted driving is another common reason for a driver’s failure to stop at a stop sign or red light. One of the most important things a driver can have in their wheelhouse is the ability to maintain a consistent focus on the road. It is an acquired skill, but all it takes is practice.
Time published a study of the 12 most dangerous intersections in the country. Five of the 12 are right here in Florida:
- Astor, FL: The intersection of State Road 40 and State Road 19
- Orlando, FL: The intersection of North Semoran Boulevard and Old Cheney Highway
- Kissimmee, FL: The intersection of Vista Del Lago Boulevard and Route 192
- Frostproof, FL: The intersection of South Scenic Highway and County Road 700
- Hialeah Gardens, FL: The intersection of Hialeah Gardens Boulevard and North Okeechobee Road
Driving While Distracted
The driver’s seat is no place for multitasking. Being distracted takes the driver’s focus off the road, at which point a driver can no longer react to roadway hazards or observe traffic signs and signals.
“Distracted driving is any activity that takes your eyes off the road, your hands off the wheel, or your mind off your primary task of driving safely,” (Doug Smith, CPCU, FCAS, MAAA, executive vice president, Sales & Products, Erie Insurance)
All of the following can be considered distractions:
- Lighting a cigarette
- Adjusting the radio
- Dealing with children in the car
- Checking the GPS
- Interacting with passengers
- Pets in the car
- Being lost in thought
Distracted driving is 100 percent preventable.
Texting while driving is simply another type of distracted driving. However, it is similar to talking on your cell phone. Using a mobile device requires more thought and attention than other distracting actions. This can easily lead to a distracted driving accident.
On May 17, 2019, Gov. Ron DeSantis signed HB107 into law authorizing the enforcement of texting while driving as a primary traffic offense. The legislation also stipulates that a handheld wireless communications device may not be used while driving in a school crossing or school zone, or in a work zone area while workers are present or operating equipment.
“Throughout our state, we’ve seen far too many accidents where [vehicle occupants] are killed or severely injured as a result of distracted drivers,” said Governor DeSantis in a press release. “This bill gives law enforcement the ability to better enforce [laws against] distractions behind the wheel. We cannot prevent all accidents on our roadways, but it is our hope that by taking action to address distractions today, we might be able to prevent a tragedy tomorrow.”
This is definitely a step forward in the right direction.
It probably goes without saying, but street racing is reckless, and it is not legal. In fact, it is not even legal to stand on the sidelines and watch a street race. Although, for the most part, these races are held in remote areas, the accidents that happen during these races are often quite serious. In Florida, street racing (a.k.a. highway racing) is a misdemeanor criminal traffic offense, similar to a DUI, requiring a mandatory court appearance.
Ironically, many people are not aware that this offense carries harsh penalties, so when caught they often plead guilty. As a result, they end up with a criminal record. On so many levels, it pays to be aware of the state’s laws. Ignorance of the law is no excuse, and is never a valid legal defense. Those convicted under Florida Statute 316.191 will face:
- A fine of $500 to $1000 and a mandatory two (2) year suspension of their driver’s license, plus the possibility of up to one year in jail
- Those with a previous conviction within the last five (5) years face an increased fine of between $1000 and $3000 and a mandatory two (2) year license suspension as well as up to one year in jail
- After a third or subsequent offense, the penalty is a $2000 to $5000 fine and a mandatory (4) year suspension of the driver’s license, as well as up to one year in jail.
State statute 316.0895, following too closely is considered reckless driving behavior. Also called ‘tailgating’ this is an aggressive form of driving that is frequently a form of road rage. Most tailgaters are impatient or are simply in a hurry to get around slower-moving traffic on the roadways, no matter the cost.
Don’t tailgate. Maintain a safe distance (10 feet for every 10 miles per hour you are traveling) behind the car in front of you. It is always better to be safe rather than sorry. During bad weather, such as heavy rain or fog, double the distance to 20 feet for every 10 miles per hour you are traveling.
Don’t be a victim. If you find yourself being tailgated, if possible move to a different lane to allow the aggressive driver to pass you safely. Sometimes it is possible to avoid being tailgated by driving consistently in the right-hand lane.
Tailgating is a major cause of rear-end accidents. Although property damage may be significant in a rear-end accident, physical injuries are usually relatively minor and self-limiting. But it is important to remember the physical symptoms of this type of accident do not always present themselves immediately. It can often take several hours or even several days to notice things like:
- Neck, back, head, or shoulder pain
- Difficulty with concentration
- Problems with arm strength
- Blurred vision
- Limited range of motion
- Pain or numbness in the arm
- Pain or numbness in the hands
- Irritability, sleep disturbances, fatigue
- Bruising or swelling
These symptoms can indicate a serious problem such as:
- Slipped disc
- Spinal fractures
Seek medical attention as soon as any of these symptoms are evident.
Improper passing is dangerous. before attempting to pass another vehicle:
- Make sure the traffic flow will allow you to pass
- Always use your turn signals
- Make sure there is enough room to pass safely
- Passing on the right is generally illegal
- Any passing maneuver where the driver cannot fully see oncoming traffic is not allowed
- Cutting off another vehicle is aggressive and reckless behavior
- Vehicles attempting to pass a bicyclist must leave at least 3 feet between their car and the bicycle
Teenagers are often guilty of reckless driving when trying to impress their friends, or because they feel invincible and don’t completely understand the possible consequences. Young people often drive aggressively and irresponsibility, and in doing so pose a danger to themselves and other innocent motorists, bicyclists, and pedestrians. With more than 800,000 licensed teen drivers on Florida highways, it is imperative that, as a community, we encourage safe driving programs and classes, as well as state-sponsored safety initiatives.
As parents, teachers, clergy, and law enforcement officials we collectively need to protect and educate our youth by reminding them driving is a privilege that can be rescinded.
All teens who get behind the wheel of a car need to remember:
- Six or more points on their license within 12 months will restrict their right to drive to “Business Purposes Only” for one year, or until age 18
- There is ZERO TOLERANCE in Florida for drinking and driving for those under age 21
- Drivers under the age of 21, with a blood-alcohol level of .02 percent or more, will have their license immediately suspended for six months
- A second offense will result in a one-year suspension
- Refusal to submit to testing during their first offense will result in an automatic license suspension of 12 months, or 18 months in the case of a second offense
- If a teen receives a moving violation conviction with a Learner’s License, it will take them an additional year to earn an Operator’s License
- Teens must comply with their school’s attendance policies, or they are ineligible to obtain or maintain their license
- If convicted of possession of tobacco, minors lose their license for a minimum of 30 days
Reduce Your Risk
Be proactive and take steps to avoid being the victim of another person’s reckless driving behavior. Set yourself up for a safe ride by:
- Avoiding the fast lane whenever practical and possible
- Checking your side and rearview mirrors frequently
- Being aware of your vehicle’s blind spots, and remembering every car on the road has them too
If a reckless driver injured you or a family member, and you still have questions, call a car accident lawyer for more information.
Dolman Law Group Clearwater Office
800 N Belcher Rd
Clearwater, FL 33765
Phone: (727) 451-6900