Driving distractions

Florida Police Officers Worry About Distraction and Safety

As the parent of a teenage driver, Police Chief Roger Boatner, of Lakeland, Florida worries when his daughter is behind the wheel. However, his worries are not with her own driving skills or with the locations she visits. He worries most about the many drivers he sees doing nearly everything but driving as they cruise down the street.

Those who spend even a few seconds changing a CD, answering the cell phone, or taking a bite of a sandwich can cause a serious accident. Other troopers agree with the seriousness of the problem of distracted driving. Larry Coggins of the Florida State Highway Patrol claims that in every crash there can be some type of driver error found.

Many studies have been done on the effects of cell phones and other distractions while driving. While exact numbers have varied, the basic results have been the same.

  • Virginia Tech’s Transportation Institute found that drivers who talk on cell phones are 4 times more likely to be involved in a serious crash.
  • The National Highway Traffic Administration carried out a study, which found that more than 75% of crashes and 66% of near misses occurred when drivers were engaged in conversations on cell phones.
  • The University of Utah carried out an experiment that resulted in the conclusion that drivers talking on cell phone were just as impaired as an intoxicated driver.

Results such as these have caused a few states to pass laws prohibiting all drivers from talking on cell phones while behind the wheel. Even more states have implemented similar laws, but focused them only on teenage drivers. Unfortunately, Florida is yet to have created one of these laws.

The Sheriff’s Office in Polk County, Florida has decided that these messages are so important that they have placed them on their phone system as a hold message. Additionally, they remind drivers of the importance of wearing their seat belts.

The Polk Sheriff’s Office handled 50 traffic deaths within their jurisdiction. Of these, officers believe that at least 14 lives would have been saved if the victims had been wearing a seat belt. To prevent more of these accidents from claiming the lives of young people, Florida has enacted a law allowing officers to pull cars over if passengers under the age of 18 years old are seen unrestrained.