Distracted Driving More Deadly than You Realize

Michelle Avola
Ex Director of NPC

Although vastly underreported, distracted driving kills about ten people in Florida every day. From 2012 to 2022, there were 945,380 crashes, at least 33,463 injuries, and 2,727 deaths directly attributed to distraction. Even more heartbreaking, these tragedies were completely avoidable.

We have all gotten far too comfortable with multi-tasking when we drive. For years, it has been common to drive and eat, fix our hair or makeup, entertain or discipline our kids, and share the driver’s seat with our dogs. Adding to the distractions more recently are our cell phones and the technology in our vehicles.

One study says drivers manipulate their phones 57% more today than in 2014. I get it – it’s hard not to check our email when we’ve been awaiting a response. Our watches and phones vibrate or ding to let us know we have a text or social media notification. The screens in most newer cars dazzle us with more than just radio stations, vehicle notifications, and navigation.

So many things are vying for our attention but taking our eyes off the road for only a few seconds can be deadly. It takes approximately 4.6 seconds to read an average incoming text message – the equivalent (at 55 MPH) of traveling the length of an entire football field blind.

Please sign this pledge to put away distractions and speak up if you are a passenger of a distracted driver at bit.ly/JUSTDRIVEPLEDGE.

Countless people tell me they are great drivers; they are good at multitasking, have a lot to do, and insist reading or sending a text or checking email is no big deal. But what about other not-so-great drivers? What about unexpected road hazards? If you drive distracted, the question is not IF you will cause a wreck, but WHEN.

In September 2016, a man was speeding along I-75 while downloading apps, paying bills, and checking email when he suddenly slammed into a family’s SUV. Traffic was stopped for another crash up ahead, but because he was so engrossed in his phone, he had no idea and was accelerating at the moment of impact. The distracted driver killed a nine-year-old boy named Logan Sherer and seriously injured his younger sister and parents.

It took nearly two years for the parents of Logan Sherer to convince the state’s attorney to criminally prosecute the man who killed their son. Earlier this summer, almost seven years after the horrible tragedy, justice was finally served. The driver, Gregory Andriotis, was convicted of vehicular manslaughter and three counts of serious bodily injury for what the judge deemed not just distracted driving but “intentionally reckless driving with no regard for human life.”

To support the Sherer family, I attended the sentencing in June and listened to the defendant’s pathetic excuses and the parents’ heart-wrenching impact statements. Although it will not bring Logan back, Andriotis will spend the next 30 years in prison because his choice to focus on his phone instead of the road destroyed a family.

This summer, Naples Pathways Coalition, StopDistractions.org, the Kiefer Foundation, Blue Zones Project SWFL, Naples Velo, and other partners across the state launched the Just Drive – Hands- Free Florida Coalition and campaign to end distracted driving. Our goals are to raise awareness of the dangers and prevalence of distracted driving, curb this dangerous behavior, and strengthen the current laws and penalties for holding/manipulating a phone or other electronic device while driving.

The next time you reach for your phone or some other distraction while driving, please ask yourself whether that Snapchat, text, email, or GPS address is more important than someone’s life. I promise, it’s not. It can wait, or you can pull over first. Please sign this pledge to put away distractions and speak up if you are a passenger of a distracted driver at bit.ly/JUSTDRIVEPLEDGE (be sure to use all caps).  Together, we can end distracted driving

Financial Costs

Auto insurance rates have increased by 16% in the last decade due to distracted driving.

On-the-job crashes cost employers – Claims with lost time cost in excess of $5 billion in Florida in year 2019. Employees miss 97 workdays on average.

Actuarial studies show hands-free legislation lowers auto insurance rates by between 4.7% and 6.5%.

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