Hundreds killed in distracted driving crashes in Florida last year, FHP says

AAA, law enforcement team up to raise awareness of deadly distractions

By Ashley Spicer - Reporter, anchor, Francine Frazier - Senior web producer

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Thousands of people every year die on the nation's roadways because of distracted driving, according to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

Experts and authorities want to see those numbers decrease.

AAA and Florida law enforcement agencies are partnering for Distracted Driving Awareness Month to promote safe habits behind the wheel.

Drivers can be distracted when they take their eyes off the road, their hands off the wheel or their minds off what they're doing, Florida troopers say. Texting is one of the most dangerous driver distractions because it distracts on all three fronts.

Other dangerous driving distractions include putting on makeup, tending to children in the backseat, eating, tuning the radio, checking GPS navigation and even daydreaming, troopers said.

According to the NHTSA, distracted driving resulted in 3,450 deaths in 2016, with nearly one-tenth of fatal crashes reported involving distractions. 

The Florida Highway Patrol said distracted driving crashes have increased 25 percent since 2013, and more than 200 people died in distracted driving crashes in Florida last year.

“Distracted driving is extremely risky behavior that not only puts drivers and passengers in danger, but others out on the road as well,” said FHP Director Col. Gene S. Spaulding. “Focused attention on driving increases your reaction time to dangerous driving situations, helps to prevent crashes and saves lives.”

Florida lawmakers have repeatedly tried to pass a texting-while-driving ban, but it failed in the Senate during the latest session.

AAA recommends the following tips to avoid distractions while driving:

  1. Make a commitment to drive safely by taking the pledge at AAA.com
  2. Minimize cellphone use
  3. Familiarize yourself with the car's controls before driving
  4. If you have passengers, ask for their help so you can focus on driving
  5. Put your cellphone in a secure place, like your purse, before driving, so you don't see it and think about using it

Also silencing a device while driving could help, so the noises aren't distracting, and you aren't tempted to respond to someone.

Some software available on smartphones includes an option for “Do Not Disturb while driving" that can sense when you're in motion in a vehicle.

Visit DHSMV’s website for more information and resources for the Distracted Driving Awareness Month campaign. The public is encouraged to report dangerous and drunk drivers by dialing *FHP (*347) or 911.

For more information and additional distracted driving resources, visit AAA.com.

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