Report: Emergency Responders Have High Rate of Driver Distraction

Distraction is a problem for all drivers. Whether it’s a vibrating cell phone or children in the back seat – there is constant competition for our attention at all times, even behind the wheel.
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But a recent news investigation reveals South Florida emergency responders may have an even higher rate than the rest of the public. This includes police officers, firefighters and paramedics/EMS workers.

The findings are particularly troubling in light of the fact that these workers are often called to operate vehicles at high rates of speed, often through heavy traffic. While they are given discretion as far as how to safely navigate through traffic, crashes are more commonplace than they should be, resulting in serious and sometimes lifelong injuries and even death to innocent motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians.

The Naples Daily News, located on Florida’s Gulf Coast, analyzed some 2 million crashes throughout the state between 2011 and 2014, finding that 4,100 involved an emergency responder who was found to be distracted.

In total, on-duty emergency responders were distracted in 18 percent of all crashes in which they were involved. That’s compared to 11 percent of the general population.

When it came to determining fault, emergency responders in South Florida were found to be at-fault in about 40 percent of all crashes in which they were involved. What that means is a huge chunk of the accidents in which they are involved and at-fault involve some type of distraction.

In total, this resulted in $800,000 liability payments, although that was only in Lee and Collier Counties (the newspaper’s target audience). The actual figure for all of Florida is much higher.

These drivers are rarely ever cited for their infractions. Of 171 distracted driving crashes analyzed in those two counties, only seven over the course of a four-year period resulted in a citation.

Such figures are likely low estimates because there are many other crashes that do not result in generation of a report.

For the most part, these distraction-related crashes were minor. They involved a rear-end fender bender and property damage to mailboxes, parked vehicles, etc.

However, some cases were far more serious. For example, in 2013 alone, two unborn children died in two separate crashes with Lee County emergency responders. And in 2014, a 15-year-old bicyclist was killed when a Lee sheriff’s deputy struck his bicycle with his cruiser. At the time, authorities said the deputy was accessing his in-vehicle computer.

The report indicated emergency responders were mostly distracted by something happening in the vehicle, as opposed to people or events outside. The latter would include things like loose dogs, red-light runners or suspicious crowds.

Personal injury lawsuits against the government are more complex than those filed against a member of the general public. There are requirements for early notification of intent to file a lawsuit, and there is also a heightened proof burden to overcome an assertion of sovereign immunity that would render a public entity immune to liability.

An experienced personal injury attorney is a necessity in such cases. Our legal team is here to help.

Call Fort Lauderdale Injury Attorney Richard Ansara at (954) 761-4011. Serving Broward, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties.

Additional Resources:
Collier, Lee emergency responders have high rate of distracted-driving crashes, July 10, 2015, By Ryan Mills, Naples Daily News
More Blog Entries:
Truck Guards Could Reduce Severity of Truck Encounters With Bicyclists, Pedestrians, July 9, 2015, Fort Lauderdale Car Accident Attorney Blog