If you sustained injuries in a motor vehicle accident, Florida law may entitle you to sue for damages to recoup losses related to the accident and injuries. You typically have to prove negligence to win your case. Another driver violating a traffic regulation doesn’t always constitute negligence, but it does provide evidence of negligence. Yet, some violations do immediately count as proof of negligence.
This guide describes the most common moving violations, including some criminal traffic law violations, according to data from the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles (FLHSMV). It also provides information about proving negligence in Florida car accidents, and about circumstances in which traffic violations serve as proof of negligence.
The following traffic law violations were extracted from the most recent year of data from Florida’s Uniform Traffic Citation Statistics. The FLHSMV records each citation issued with accompanying information about the outcome of the violation. This list excludes any licensing violations, such as driving while suspended or driving without a license, and is separated into moving violations and criminal traffic violations. Violations are listed in order of most to least number of tickets issued by law enforcement during 2018, but the trends are the same or similar from prior years.
These top moving violations strongly correlate with many of the top causes of motor vehicle accidents in Florida:
Although failing to exercise due care and traveling too fast for conditions make-up some traffic citations in 2018, the vast majority of tickets issued by Florida law enforcement agencies were speeding violations. Of almost 1.9 million total violations, 35 percent were speeding tickets, while only 0.26 percent were issued for going to fast for conditions. Speeding can be a direct cause of an accident when drivers lose control of their vehicle, but the damage caused by speeding is of more importance. High speeds lead to increased property damage, more severe injuries, and the increased likelihood of fatality, making it one of the most dangerous traffic law violations.
Stop Sign and Stoplight Violations
Running a red light or stop sign might result in one of at least three traffic law violations, including:
- Red light camera violations occur when a driver runs the light and the cameras mounted at an intersection record the vehicle and its license plate. Florida law enforcement reviews the video and decides whether or not to issue a citation. When authorities choose to issue a ticket, they mail a notice to the registered owner of the vehicle. This camera footage can provide valuable information in a personal injury suit.
- Running a stop sign citations result from law enforcement witnessing the act, pulling a vehicle over, and issuing a ticket to the driver.
- Running a red light citations similarly result in law enforcement physically witnessing the act and immediately issuing a citation to the driver.
Together, these three violations made up more than 22 percent of Florida traffic law violations in 2018.
Florida law defines careless driving as a violation of the legal obligation to drive “in a careful and prudent manner, having regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and other attendant circumstances, so as not to endanger life, limb, or property of any person.” Careless driving citations accounted for a little more than 10 percent of all Florida traffic law citations issued in 2018. Many different driving behaviors might fall under the broad umbrella of careless driving as the law defines it. Law enforcement officers typically issue a careless driving ticket when it’s obvious a driver wasn’t being careful, even if the driver didn’t otherwise break a traffic law. In other cases, especially those resulting in an accident and injury, officers might issue a careless driving citation in conjunction with other traffic law violations.
Violation of a Traffic Control Device
A citation for violating a traffic control device in Florida also includes running a stop sign or a red light. Officers issue these tickets in some situations because the penalty for this violation is not as severe as the penalty for running a stop sign or red light. Other actions resulting in this citation, and sometimes accidents, include failure to comply with a yield sign, making an illegal U-turn, failure to comply with flashing lights or temporary signs, ignoring speed limit signs, and failure to comply with railroad crossing signs and signals.
Failure to Yield
When a Florida law enforcement officer issues a traffic citation for failure to yield, it is often the result of one of three specific actions:
- Failing to yield the right-of-way to a vehicle entering an intersection from another highway, or when the to a vehicle approaching so closely it creates an immediate hazard when the driver goes through the intersection
- Failing to properly yield at a four-way stop—Florida law states the first person to arrive at the intersection should proceed first. When two or more vehicles arrive at the intersection simultaneously, drivers must yield right-of-way to the vehicle on their right.
- Failing to comply with yield signs including failing to yield to pedestrians in crosswalk or vehicles in an intersection. In the event that a driver strikes a pedestrian or a vehicle in an intersection after driving past a yield sign, Florida law considers the collision sufficient evidence of the driver’s failure to yield.
Improper Lane Change
Some drivers might think it’s okay to weave in and out of traffic without using their turn signals or checking their mirrors. In fact, this is not okay and will result in a traffic citation, especially if the lane change causes an accident. The same applies for passing cars on a two-lane road. Under Florida law, drivers can only pass another vehicle when the lane is free of oncoming traffic.
When cars are traveling in the same direction, a driver must ensure another vehicle is not trying to pass before changing lanes. Improper lane changes can be especially dangerous when semi-trucks are around. Big rigs have blind spots that extend up to around 20 feet in front and behind of the tractor-trailer, as well as large areas on each side. Regardless of fault, when a motorist gets into an accident with a large semi, catastrophe often results.
Criminal Traffic Violations
These criminal traffic law violations result in higher fines, penalties, and sometimes jail time for drivers:
Driving Under the Influence
In 2018, Florida law enforcement officers arrested almost 50,000 individuals for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The FLHSMV estimates in 2017, close to 10,000 traffic accidents involved alcohol, including several hundred fatal crashes resulting in the death of the driver, a passenger, and/or a pedestrian. The danger of drinking and driving has prompted lawmakers in Florida and across the nation to treat this moving violating as a crime. Those who register a breath alcohol content (BAC) of .08 will be charged, but Florida also heaps additional charges and penalties on those convicted with a BAC of .15 or higher.
If the at-fault driver in your accident was convicted of a DUI, it gives a shortcut to your attorney for proving negligence to prevail in your case. A DUI offense often constitutes what is known as negligence per se, which we explain in more detail below.
Under Florida law, a reckless driving charge is the criminal version of a careless driving citation. Those who get charged with reckless driving have displayed “willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property.” Fortunately, it doesn’t happen too often. Yet, when a driver operates a vehicle in a reckless manner, if often results in accident, injury, and sometimes death.
The most common example of reckless driving is using a motor vehicle to flee law enforcement. Fines and penalties associated with reckless driving vary based on the level of property damage, the extent of bodily harm, and whether or not a fatality occurred. Additionally, when prosecutors make plea bargains for DUI offenders, reducing a DUI charge to reckless driving charge is a common occurrence.
Leaving the Scene of an Accident
Drivers who leave the scene of the accident face the risk of large fines, jail time, and even time in prison, depending on the situation. Although this is a criminal traffic law violation, fortunately it only occurs about 5 percent of the time. Leaving the scene causes issues with insurance claims exceeding Florida’s personal injury protection (PIP) coverage. If accident victims don’t have uninsured motorist coverage, they are forced to absorb losses over and above their PIP limits.
Proving Negligence in Florida Motor Vehicle Accidents
Prevailing in a personal injury lawsuit after a motor vehicle accident requires proof of negligence in the majority of cases. Your attorney must present evidence establishing the four legal elements of negligence for a Florida court to rule in your favor. They are:
- Duty of care. All motorists have a duty of care towards others on the road, including driving with caution to prevent accident and injury and following traffic laws.
- Breach of duty. This might be obvious in some cases, especially when the at-fault driver violated a traffic law.
- Causation. The breach of duty must have caused injury to the claimant. Causation is the most contested element of negligence. The defense might admit to a breach of duty if the driver broke a traffic law, but they will try to prove the breach did not lead to the accident.
- Harm. The plaintiff must have suffered harm from the accident, which means the court must be able to place a monetary value on harm. This can include mental harm and financial loss in addition to the physical harm resulting from an accident.
Negligence Per Se in Florida Vehicle Accidents
Although it is rare, some personal injury cases do not require strict, element-by-element proof of negligence for a court to rule in the plaintiff’s favor. Many of these cases occur when the plaintiff’s attorney argues the defendant’s conduct constituted negligence per se, a legal concept meaning negligence is assumed because of the nature of the conduct.
Negligence per se cases can happen when the at-fault driver has committed has violated a serious traffic regulation or committed a traffic crime. Those actions can constitute evidence of negligence per se, because of how the law defines them. In that sort of case, your attorney only needs to prove the violation happened, and that it caused your injury. In some cases, your attorney might argue both types of negligence.
For example, take the situation in which a driver has a few cocktails on the way home from work. When she leaves the bar, she doesn’t want anyone at home to smell alcohol on her breath. When she is driving, she reaches in her purse for some chewing gum, taking her eyes off of the wheel. She swerves and causes an accident. Reaching for gum is not illegal, but it is a breach of the driver’s duty of care. Driving while intoxicated, meantime, is a crime. So, in this example, an attorney can argue the driver was negligent per se because she was drinking and driving, and that the driver was negligent for taking her eyes off the road to reach for chewing gum.
Other traffic law violation which might result in a negligence per se argument include:
- Stoplight and stop sign violations
- Wrong-way driving
- Drag racing
- Fleeing law enforcement in a vehicle
When you discuss your case with your attorney, ask if negligence per se applies to your particular situation.
Contact an Attorney After Another Driver’s Traffic Violation Caused an Accident
Traffic laws exist to keep drivers safe on the road. When negligent drivers violate those laws, they put others with whom they share the road at risk for accidents, injuries, and even death. Many of the most common traffic law violations are also common causes of traffic collisions. When law enforcement issues a citation after an accident, it can help your personal injury case by providing evidence or proof of negligence, depending on the violation.
If you have suffered injuries in a motor vehicle accident, contact an experienced lawyer to help you seek the compensation you deserve for losses related to your accident. With offices across both Florida coasts, you can easily reach Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, and Sibley Dolman Accident Injury Lawyers, LLP, at 833-552-7274 (833-55-CRASH), or you may contact us online.
Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA
800 North Belcher Road
Clearwater, FL 33765