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State lawmaker encourages Floridians to put phones down

A state legislator who serves Palm Beach County recently wrote an opinion piece in which she encouraged her fellow Floridians to pay better attention to the road and to put their phones down while driving. She has also pledged to fight for stronger measures to combat distracted driving.

Florida already has laws in place that police can use to punish texting and driving and even a driver's decision to use a cell phone without a hands-free device. However, according to the lawmaker, these measures don't seem to be helping as much as one would hope.

Her statistics suggested that, over the last four years, traffic fatalities have increased by over 40 percent. Overall, the number of accidents related to distracted driving have also gone up significantly. In Florida, 45,000 accidents were related to distracted driving in 2015. These accidents led to 39,000 injuries that were significant enough to be reported, as well as 200 deaths.

The lawmaker is no stranger to what happens in the aftermath of fatal motor vehicle accidents. She lost her twin sister to an accident a number of years ago.

The legislator suggests that it may be time for Florida to join most other states in making texting and driving a primary offense, meaning officers can stop a motorist if they have legal grounds to believe the driver is on his or her cell phone unlawfully, even if the driver is otherwise following the laws of the road.

It is also important for victims of distracted driving to remember that, even if the police do not issue a ticket, motorists in this state have an obligation to drive attentively and to keep their eyes on the road. When a motorist does not meet this obligation and causes an accident as a result, compensation may be available to the victims.

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