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Distracted Driving by Emergency Responders

When it comes to distracted driving, many imagine the role of emergency responders as the police, firemen, and paramedics as those show up to help. But a recent story out of Collier and Lee Counties shows that emergency responders are responsible for a large chunk of the distracted driving accidents that happen every year.

And it makes sense. Each of these groups of people has a large number of things going on inside their car. Police have in-car computers and are often transporting suspects; ambulances drive at a high rate of speed and have light switches, sirens, and hurt patients to tend to; and firefighters have a host of switches, gears, radios and other things to distract them as they respond to an emergency.

The Numbers Show an Alarming Trend

The local paper for Collier and Lee Counties conducted an analysis of the accidents in which emergency responders are involved. In their report they revealed that of the 977 state-reported accidents out of Collier and Lee Counties in the last four years, 171 were due to distracted driving. That’s about 18 percent of their crashes. This high number of distracted driving crashes by emergency personnel creates more than a risk for the public at large; it ends up in a large bill for county and local governments. When emergency personnel are negligent, the local governments must pick up the tab and pay damages.

Some of the accidents have led to tragic results. In 2013, two separate crashes involving emergency personnel killed two unborn babies. And in 2014 a Lee County deputy drove into and killed a 15-year-old boy riding his bicycle. These are sad and tragic examples of the cost of distracted driving, but they should serve as an example and warning to all of us – including emergency responders – to put away the distractions while driving.

Florida Distracted Driving Law and Exceptions

Florida does have laws against distracted driving, but within the law are exceptions for emergency responders. Florida Statutes 316.305 prohibits the use of texting while driving for drivers, but it is a secondary offense, meaning the driver cannot be cited for violating the law unless they are also doing something else like speeding. In addition, police officers, firefighters, and medical responders are all allowed, under the law, to text and drive as long as their communications are related to the performance of their job.

Beyond the criminal code that punishes distracted driving, Florida civil law exists to help victims of distracted driving. Under Florida civil law, each driver has a duty to operate their vehicle reasonably. The purpose of this duty is to prevent accidents that cause damages to others. If a driver breaches this duty and causes an accident, then the victim is entitled to collect from the negligent driver and his insurance company.

If you have been involved in an accident in the Miami area, contact us. At Alan Goldfarb, P.A., we represent and defend victims of distracted driving. We will evaluate your case and provide you with your legal options.

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